Whare back where it all began

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 05:00 29/06/2013
Adele Wheeley
CARYS MONTEATH/ Fairfax NZ
BACK IN BUSINESS: Adele Wheeley's Whare homeware store is operating again in Beckenham.

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Christchurch gift and homewares store Whare could be the poster-child of small-business post-quake recovery.

Two and a half years after losing its Beckenham and Lichfield St stores in the February 2011 earthquake, the business has moved into commercial premises at Beckenham Central in Colombo St.

Immediately after the quake co-owner Adele Wheeley launched online sales for the business, but found it was no magic bullet.

Husband and co-owner Andrew had refurbished their garage at their Birdwood Ave home and converted it into a makeshift shop from which they traded, through snow and floods, until they reopened at Beckenham Central three weeks ago.

Adele says she is amazed at the amount of foot traffic at the centre. Empty sites at the shopping complex had recently been snapped up.

"All of a sudden in three weeks, there's a lot for people to come for. If they can get their needs met locally then they will."

Whare is next door to Fabric House, which invited Whare to fill that space alongside their own store.

They had been neighbours in Lichfield St.

Wheeley had earlier decided she would move out of the garage shop only if she were moving to the "safety net" of like-minded businesses, and the new site had a complementary mix of stores.

Andrew, who had experience in the building industry, spent last year qualifying as a project manager with CPIT and is now a project manager with Arrow International.

Adele will operate only one store "because it is really hard to know what the market is doing".

"Because people are still not really replacing homewares in Christchurch."

For many people it was still a time of completing home repairs after the earthquakes, or organising the rebuild of their home.

She said she would reassess the market in two years.

The present store is 70sqm, more than three times the 20sqm space in her garage, but Adele says she learnt a lot of lessons in the garage - about buying, and what people wanted.

Many people were browsing in the new store but those who made a purchase usually bought gifts for others, not homewares for themselves.

Wheeley said she sensed it was going to be another "lean" year for Christchurch but opening the new store had been a great step forward.

Even their insurance battles have been settled.

"It feels like a new start."

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