A large and attractive store opened in Hautapu St, Taihape's main street on Saturday.

Owner Susan Benson described it as a general store though it actually presents as a department store, with creatively dressed windows and bright displays.
Anna's Homestore & Gifts carries everything from crockery, kitchenware, children's clothes, underwear, shoes and furniture to whitewear and appliances.

"I decided Taihape people really needed a general-type store so that they didn't have to go out of town when they needed to buy homewares," Susan said.
Susan, who is also the general manager of family-owned Hautapu Mill in Taihape, presented the idea of a large general store to her family at a business meeting earlier this year.

"Our meetings are often for brainstorming ideas. We call them HBI Meetings, (hare-brained ideas). The family liked the idea of the store so they backed me and here I am. My hare-brained idea won a strong family vote."


With her family staunchly behind her Susan got on with realising her plan.
She laughed when she said the idea of the general store had come to her when she was on holiday travelling around the South Island.

"We had stopped in Balclutha and there was a big department-style store in this tiny town. That's when I decided if a small town like Balclutha can have one so can we.''

Taihape people have always had to leave town and travel to Feilding or Palmerston North
to get things like bed linen, kitchenware and whiteware, she said

"It costs them to travel out of town in time and money.''

Susan has a background in market research but said that other than doing her father's accounts while at school she had little idea of the many parts to the role she was taking on

Although she did not purposely set out to do it, Susan has put a senior management structure in place and now has five managers – production and dispatch, compliance and training, sales, workshop and administration and finance.

She has learnt that it is important to get the right person for the role.

"I learnt early on that if I couldn't find the right person then I don't put anyone there."

She's said she's fortunate to have a wonderful manager for the new store in Kellye Shaw,

"I will stay working at the mill in my steel caps and Kellye will run the store.''
Working with Kellye will be four part-time staff.

Susan laughed when she said that for the women's underwear department the company has said it would be sending in a bra-ologist to teach staff the right way to fit a bra.
"Apparently it's very important.''

Opening day last Saturday was filled with excitement, she said.

"We were swamped with people coming in. It was truly great day.''