Woodville bounces back after tough year

Summer has been bountiful for Woodville’s businesses which appear to have left the dark days of the gorge closure behind them.

State Highway 3 through the Manawatu Gorge was closed for 13 months, except for an eight week interval when one lane was open during the day to traffic and both lanes were open at night, after bad weather brought down a massive slip on to the road.

The alternative route bypassed the town, hammering local businesses, causing some to close temporarily, or for a couple, permanently.

The problems compounded for some business owners when months of roadworks, as part of a town centre upgrade, started in Woodville’s main street during the gorge closure.

The gorge road reopened in September and since then it has gone back to business as usual in Woodville, local business owners say.

Yummy Mummy’s Cheesecakes co-owner Trish Rodwell said the Christmas period was the busiest they had ever been.

It was the first time a lot of people had visited the town for a year, and they were impressed by the street upgrade.

‘‘People are so happy they can just zip through the gorge now,’’ Mrs Rodwell said.

Ross Evans, of Whariti Antiques, said the gorge closure and the street being upgraded at the same time meant ‘‘32 weeks of hell’’

But when the gorge road reopened, numbers of people through the door went ‘‘straight back’’ to where they were before the road closed, which was normal trading for recessionary times, he said.

Mr Evans said his store did not have the best Christmas in the 17 years he had been in business, but he probably did see the most people through the shop.

However,  people were not necessarily buying, he said.

Rachael Puru, who managed For Frocks Sake, Oosh Art Gallery and Oosh La La, said the three stores had been humming over Christmas, particularly the art and jewellery store.

On Saturday, she had had women coming in to buy dresses before heading to the Woodville races, and one woman walked out of the store in her new threads.

Traffic through the town had been heavy and people had remarked to her that the town looked good.

Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis said although some businesses did see an immediate effect of the gorge reopening, overall there had been a ‘‘good, steady increase’’ in business throughout the town since.

Mr Ellis said he had spoken to a couple of people who had expressed an interest in buying shops in Woodville, and local property sales had seen a ‘‘little surge’’.

He had also heard good things about the town’s new look.

‘‘I’ve got friends from all over New Zealand who have commented before and after Christmas that it looks a completely different town now it’s been done up. It’s amazing the comments we’ve had from all over the place.’’

Manawatu Standard