A Horowhenua store has changed hands for the first time in nearly two decades, with the new owner bringing her culinary skills into the mix.

Sonya Martin has taken over The Manakau Store - a quintessential Kiwi dairy, post office and local hub, popular for its friendly service as much as its real fruit ice cream and pies.

Previously run by Sharon Hollow for 19 years, the store serves a base of loyal local customers, as well as holiday makers from nearby Waikawa Beach and travellers driving past on State Highway One.

Sonya says she'll maintain a local focus, as well as adding a broader range to the store and increasing its food offerings, as she has many years' experience in the food industry.

Advertisement

Formerly a tutor at Whitireia, Sonya qualified as a chef in 1986, before heading overseas to Australia and London to prove herself in the industry.

She and her partner and children have owned a section nearby in Waikawa for 14 years, and moved back full time three years ago.

She took over the store at the start of this year and says she had an overwhelmingly positive and friendly welcome from locals who use the store regularly.

Sonya says she has big boots to fill though, with Mrs Hollow well-known and liked for many years.

"Everyone misses her, so my thing is to try and make sure I can do just as good a job as her - I don't want to disappoint," she said.

A new cold cabinet display is planned for the main counter, which will be stocked with homemade sandwiches and salads, there are muffins and other creations already in stock, and she'll continue to supply the popular pies the store gets from Temptations Patisserie in Ōtaki.

"I'm used to cooking," Martin said. "I'm just constantly thinking about food and recipes."

She said owning the store allowed the flexibility to explore and she can be a lot more creative than if she was constrained by running a business such as a cafe with a set menu.

Advertisement

"This morning I woke up and thought I'd make some feta paleo muffins," she said.

Martin also has a strong focus on providing food to meet the different dietary needs of many.

She offers gluten-free options, carefully prepared using different equipment to gluten-containing foods, as well as vegetarian options, and stocking items that are organic or reduced sugar.

"I follow the seasons for nutritional value," she said. "Eco is another really big thing of mine."

Sonya is working on keeping the store's environmental footprint as small as possible, and is running down stocks of previous items such as milkshake cups and other containers which she is replacing with biodegradable and environmentally friendly alternatives.

However, she knows it's vital not to lose sight of the Kiwiana flavour of the store, and is making sure all the nostalgic favourites still feature, including lolly mixes, buzz bars, hokey pokey ice cream, thick shakes and classic pie flavours that are dear to the heart of many a New Zealander, including Sonya.

"I'm trying to be as Kiwi as possible as well," she said.

She welcomes all customers to pop in and say hello any time between 6am and 6pm seven days a week, and to pick up her card if they'd like to email and give feedback about what they'd like to see in the store.