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Wellington landmark turns 100

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 06/11/2012
Clarries
KENT BLECHYNDEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Minding the store: Former owner Murray Gibbons and current owner Babu Ranchhod outside Clarries Newsagent Store.

Clarrie Gibbons
File photo of past owner Clarrie Gibbons.
Clarries
The Clarries Newsagent Store building in Post Office Square began life as a tram office and ladies' bathroom 100 years ago.

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It has stood in Post Office Square for 100 years and past and present owners believe it will stand for 100 more.

Clarries Newsagent Store, a dairy which doubles as a museum and part-time information centre, is celebrating the building's centenary this year.

The building, constructed out of Australian hardwood and native timber, began its life as a tram office and ladies' bathroom that sat alone in an island of tram tracks.

Slowly the city built up around it and in 1945 it became a convenience store, servicing the growing city as well as the bustling wharf area.

Murray Gibbons' father, Clarrie, took over the business in the late 1960s and Murray started working there in the 1970s after returning from his overseas experience.

The square the shop sits in has been the scene of some major Wellington events, including the waterfront dispute of 1951, which saw 22,000 wharfies and unionists off the job.

During the Depression, the nearby corner of Jervois Quay and Hunter St was renamed Pauper's Corner, where out-of-work men would stand in the hopes of picking up labouring jobs, Mr Gibbons said.

The arrival of a new governor-general, Lord Jellicoe, in 1920 was also marked in Post Office Square, as crowds gathered to see him arrive on Queens Wharf.

Mr Gibbons sold the business to Babu and Kamla Ranchhod in 2003.

Mr Ranchhod says he was buying into the history of the site as much as the business.

"We've been in business before, but we've never been in the city and it was great, it was all set up and very established with good clientele."

Mr Gibbons said lost tourists often found their way to the shop, so they started offering free maps to provide directions.

Others get confused by the sign on the outside describing it as a museum, until they are directed to the walls of old photographs above the magazine stands.

Despite the kiosk having been yellow-stickered as an earthquake-prone building, both Mr Gibbons and Mr Ranchhod believe it is solid.

"It's Australian hardwood it isn't going anywhere.

"It will be here another 100 years, no problem, but we won't be," Mr Ranchhod said.

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