First Look: Inside Made, Hamilton’s Groundbreaking New Shopping & Dining Precinct

By India Hendrikse
Made, the bright and airy precinct spearheaded by Matt and Jaimee Stark, opens in Hamilton. Photo / Ash Muir

Hamilton’s answer to Ponsonby Central, Made, pens a new chapter in the Waikato’s foodbasket story, bringing growers, makers and creatives together for a boutique shopping and dining experience like no other.

In the chink of space between a bend in the Waikato River and the bustling shopping strip of Grey

Situated in Hamilton East — a riverside suburb home to great cafes, the birthplace of Duck Island ice cream, and the jaw-droppingly beautiful Hamilton Gardens — Made has taken over a building constructed in 1907, and given it the ultimate glow-up. Edwards White Architects did the exterior, while Designwell (also behind Kohi Beach eatery and store’s makeover) owned the interior fit-out.

Offering a boutique shopping and dining experience that celebrates the Waikato, Made is the brainchild of Stark Property, founded by Matt Stark, the company’s director, and his wife Jaimee, who works as the property developer’s designer.

Stark Property has earned a glossy reputation in Hamilton for reinvigorating old buildings and creating upmarket yet functional urban spaces. The Riverbank Lane, in Hamilton’s CBD, is a loved example and best frequented for its good secondhand bookshop, artisan bakery Rudi’s Bakehouse, and popular watering hole Mr. Pickles Bar & Eatery.

Burger Burger has a new restaurant inside Made. Photo / Ash Muir
Burger Burger has a new restaurant inside Made. Photo / Ash Muir

“We’re massively invested in this city,” says Matt. “The Waikato has always been talked about as the foodbasket for the country, so our passion is in showcasing our amazing producers and makers.” Inspiration for the market came from the likes of Borough Market in London, Chelsea Market in New York, and closer to home, the Riverside Market in Christchurch. Stark Property’s designer, Jaimee, has been instrumental in Made’s overall aesthetic.

The precinct is divided into distinct areas; the main hall is an an indoor market with permanent storeholders such as local breadmaker Volare and Raglan-born zero-waste refillery, Bare.

The mezzanine is a retail hub of fashion, homewares, and a massage parlour. Further into the precinct is ‘Made Mess Hall’, an upmarket food court (notably featuring Crack Chicken from Auckland restaurateur David Lee of Pōni in Commercial Bay and Aigo in Ponsonby), wine bar, taproom, and activity zone, with treetops at eye-line level and stunning views over the river down below.

The bar at Hāpi Taproom. Photo / Ash Muir
The bar at Hāpi Taproom. Photo / Ash Muir

At the rear of the complex are the ‘Made Sheds’, featuring a speciality coffee brew bar and roastery from Grey Roasting Co, a ceramics treasure trove by Mystery Creek Ceramics, a creative workshop hub called Ranger, and chef’s table farm-to-table restaurant The Green — which is so popular, it’s booked out through to next year. Duck Island’s national factory is on site, too, which means the smell of freshly baked and creamed sugary treats regularly wafts over the complex.

Ngāti Hauā are manawhenua for the land where Made resides, and their contribution to the precinct is a partnership with Pirongia Mountain Vegetables. Rukumoana Schaafhausen, Managing Director for Te Waharoa Investments (the iwi’s commercial arm), says the store is part of a goal to create jobs and sell healthy food to their community. “Our vision is prosperity for our whānau and our hāpori,” says Rukumoana. “How do we achieve that? We help our whānau to take control of their whenua and provide āwhina to them in growing quality produce. Through this, our whānau are given training, and employment, and play a key part in our mission for the prosperity of our people and the wider community.”

For Found, a fashion and homewares store that previously operated from Riverbank Lane, their shift to Made’s mezzanine has given owners Liz Viviani and Ann-maree Parsons the chance to create their “dream store”.

Fashion and homeware store Found. Photo / Ash Muir
Fashion and homeware store Found. Photo / Ash Muir

“It’s exciting to be a part of the next big thing in Hamilton,” says Liz. “We’ve always been really big advocates of Hamilton and we want to see the city flourish,” she says, adding that she often speaks to out-of-towners visiting Hamilton at the weekend. “I think it’s good to have another hub where people can meet. This type of thing community-wise is great.”

Community is the undercurrent of Made and is transmuted into many of its aesthetics and tenant choices. The Larder, adjoined to the main market, gives emerging businesses a chance to share shop space with other newbies, with staff from each business managing the nook on a rotational basis. Break-out spots abound, too, and the wooden verandah jutting out toward the river offers breathtaking views, perfect for a summer’s day. Importantly, accessibility is prioritised with roomy laneways and accessible lifts.

The open plan complex features a string of dried wheat hanging across the ceiling. Photo / Ash Muir
The open plan complex features a string of dried wheat hanging across the ceiling. Photo / Ash Muir

One of the most striking elements of the complex is the dried wheat strung across the mezzanine’s ceiling. It’s a nod to the foodbasket status, but it’s also an ode to the community; Matt drove down to Ohakune with his dad to cut down the wheat, and then when he returned with the feathery stalks, kids of Made staff members joined forces with their parents and students from local schools to string it all together.

Made opens to the public on Saturday, November 4 at 10am. Thereafter, Made Market & Mezzanine is open Wednesday to Monday from 9am to 5pm; Made Mess Hall is open Wednesday to Monday from 11am until late; Made Sheds hours differ for individual operators. 401 Grey Street, Hamilton East.

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