Store auction could bring hammer down on history

Last updated 09:50 06/11/2012

Bench mark: Kevin Rayner and his wife Estelle took over the business from Kevin’s father Stan 20 years ago but have made sure that personal service remained in fashion.

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The auction hammer may come down on the landmark Petone Rayner & Woodward Hardware building, ending a 65-year retailing run.

Every day of his 50-year working life, Kevin Rayner has walked through the door of the two-storey timber and brick building at 146 Jackson St.

His father Stan started the firm in 1947 with Colin Woodward but though the latter dropped out after six months, the Rayners stuck it out. It is now believed to be the oldest remaining family owned business in Petone.

Kevin says the auction on December 6 may not be the end. He calls it "testing the market" - if the building doesn't get the price he's looking for, he's happy to continue.

The building was originally home to a tailor's store, Messrs. Mills Bros, and Kevin believes the store with wooden counter and displays of tools and fittings running up the high walls - is the last independent hardware store in the region.

While waiting to take a photo last week, Hutt News witnessed one reason Rayner & Woodward has endured. One couple came in with an old door handle they could not dismantle. Another customer wanted a new battery for a car remote key. Both times Kevin took the time to dismantle the handle and remote, rather than just sell a replacement part and leave it to the clients to work out what to do next. It's the only work environment he's known since his first day on the job aged 15.

"It's all I've ever done. But I am really proud to have provided good, honest, old-fashioned service for so long; that's something that the bigger chains have diluted."

He says that if the auction reaches the right price, he will find it hard to step away.

Acknowledging that trading patterns have changed and independent stores often struggle to keep their head above water, Kevin says the resilience of Petone is to be admired.

"In my time with the shop we've seen the closure of five large motor companies in Petone which were big customers of ours; the Woollen Mills, the Electric Power Board and the Gear Meat Works have also disappeared yet Petone is still here and more popular than ever.

"I regularly have people from overseas coming in here saying they've never seen anything like this. Then there are those who pop in just to admire the old kauri counter and soak up the atmosphere."

Paul Cudby and Andrew Smith of Bayleys Wellington, who are marketing the 200 square metre building, say the interior has remained largely untouched for more than a century and is an outstanding example of heritage architecture.

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- Hutt News


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