When Neville Wellbourn became a Kirkcaldie & Stains doorman nine years ago, he didn't realise he would also become an unofficial guide to the city.
The 65-year-old is one of two doormen at the department store, the other being Tom Neve, who has clocked up 15 years.
Being a doorman is not exactly what Wellbourn dreamed of as a boy growing up in Christchurch, but it fits in with a resume of people-focused employment throughout his life.
"My base training was as an occupational therapist and I've worked in management and HR but I've probably spent most of my professional career in the not-for-profit environment.
"I was made redundant in a job and spent some time as a volunteer guide at the hospital in 2004, which was a lot of fun and I saw this job going and thought, ‘well I can do that'."
Wellbourn believes people like the idea of a doorman because it is traditional, simple and "old school".
"It's not rocket science. It's very basic, meet and greet and answer any queries people have. Ironically there are more questions about things outside of the store than inside, like ‘Where's Te Papa?' "
The uniform and top hat receive interesting reactions.
"Kids love it; people find it unique . . . it's interesting in the cruise season - for better or worse you become a bit of a photo opportunity."
Wellbourn says he will never forget when Billy Connolly asked him for directions, and he never minds when people stop for a chat.
Managing director John Milford says both Wellbourn and Neve are "fantastic assets" to the store. "They set the scene for the customer experience that Kirks prides itself on and they must be one of the most photographed attractions in the city."
Despite being eligible for retirement, Wellbourn hopes to remain a Kirkcaldies doorman for a few years yet.
"It's always in the back of the mind that someone will tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Look, we've made a decision to not have a doorman.' It would be sad . . . but while the opportunity's still here, I'll keep going.
"I think I've got one of the best offices in the city."
BE IN TO WIN
Today is the last day to enter Kirkcaldie & Stains and Positively Wellington Tourism's Royal of the Store competition. The prize includes an after-hours, private appointment with a personal shopping assistant, champagne and $2500 to spend. Enter at wicked.wellingtonnz.com/details/royal-of-the-store. --------------------
- The Dominion Post