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Macpac gave a welcome boost to the Ōtaki shopping scene when it opened its doors on Saturday (June 8).

Its arrival had been anticipated for months after the building had been vacated a couple of years ago by the Ekko store. It reinforces the outdoor offerings of the Ōtaki Railway shops, especially at the south end of the precinct, where stores such as Kathmandu, Icebreaker and Hunting & Fishing reside.

Ōtaki Today also understands – but has not been able to confirm – that the long-vacant Antonio’s on Arthur Street by the railway station seems likely to be tenanted soon by another Italian food restaurant.

Only a year ago Ōtaki had no Italian food options, let alone pizza outlets. With Pizza Land in the township bouncing back under a new owner – after operating under a cloud when Ōtaki Today revealed allegations of worker exploitation – and the newly arrived Domino’s, the pizza options would be three.

The former Opulence store in the arcade next to Reds Cafe is also understood to be just tenanted, with a second-hand book store due to move in shortly.

Wendy Reid, who operates the Cream Design stores on opposite corners of Arthur Street and Old Main Highway, caused some concern among retailers recently when she put a “for lease” sign on the store at the south-east side. Rumours abounded that Wendy was getting out of retailing and closing both stores. The reality is a little different.

While she says high rents are making life difficult, she’s “looking at her options”, including toughing it out in the hope the retailing scene improves. She says she’s put a lease sign on one shop and if a new tenant takes it on she’ll consolidate the Cream business in the other (south-west corner) store.

“It will get better, but it is really tough out there,” she told Ōtaki Today. “We’ve seen a 40 percent reduction in our turnover since the expressway opened. Landlords need to understand that we won’t survive unless we get some relief from high rents.”

Wendy has different landlords for each of her stores. She says one has been accommodating; the other won’t budge.

A stroll around the Railway precinct revealed 12 shops out of about 70 premises (including offices) were for lease as of June 10.

Most premises for lease have been vacant for some time, although a shop at 202 Old Main Highway, between SHS Vapes and the old Professionals office and previously the Rongoā shop, has just had a lease sign put up in the window.

Maude Heath’s Artel also only recently became vacant after she took the art store back to Waikanae. That, and the large space left by the departure of NZ Natural last year, has left some uncomfortable holes in the retail area, but neither of those store owners had cited the effects of the expressway as factors.

Meanwhile, there’s still faith that Ōtaki remains a place where shoppers want to visit. The former chair of Elevate Ōtaki, Adrian Gregory, says while he shares people’s concerns about the number of empty shops in the Railway precinct, he is broadly optimistic about the future for retail, services and hospitality on the strip, and wider across Ōtaki and Te Horo.

“The signs are positive,” he says. “As some businesses  close, for various reasons, others are opening or expanding. And the new business association will, I’m sure, have a key focus on the growth and prosperity of Ōtaki.”

A new Ōtaki and Te Horo business association is in the early stages of being established, with a working group looking at how it should operate.

Ōtaki Community Board chair Cam Butler says that while some changeover of shops is to be expected with the opening of the expressway, the board remains positive about the future of the old SH1 retail area. 

“New shops are arriving to invigorate the area and with the formation of the new business association well under way, the implementation of the First Retail strategy developed by Elevate Ōtaki can begin to invigorate the area,” he says. “We also have to bear in mind that trading conditions are difficult for everyone at the moment and we strongly urge locals to shop locally to support these businesses.”

Shops for lease at the Railway, from top left (names of former or recent prominent occupiers): 1. Sunran Spas, 2. Discount Shoes, 3. Love Me Again clothing, 4. Amazon, 5. Antonio’s, 6. Opulence, 7. Cream Design, 8. The Rongoā store, 9. Professionals, 10. Salt & Honey, 11. Artel, 12. NZ Natural.


Macpac arrives, but still empty shops




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