Motorcycle firm bounces back after big shake

Condemned premises a challenge for firm

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 07/02/2014
motorcycle HQ
BACK IN BUSINESS: Simon Windelborn and his wife Carolyn outside the condemned building in Main Street, Pahiatua.

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When the Wellington Anniversary earthquake hit, Simon Windelborn was sitting on the floor of his Pahiatua home and reckons it felt like a kick in the backside.

But the real pain would come later, heralded by the ringing phone, alerting him and his wife Carolyn to an alarm activation in their Main St Pahiatua store, Motorcycle HQ.

The magnitude 6.2 earthquake, centred 15 kilometres east of nearby Eketahuna that afternoon, hit their business premises harder than most in the Tararua town, cracking a concrete slab clean through, breaking windows, toppling shelves and jolting locked doors open.

The parts of the building they had been using as a showroom, parts department, offices, kitchen and smoko room, were condemned. They are not even allowed to remove their showroom stock until internal scaffolding is put in place.

But steeped in family history - the original shop was opened in 1925 by Mrs Windelborn's grandfather, who was later joined by her father, who in turn employed her now husband Simon - the Windelborns aren't about to pull the plug.

With the workshop area and the back half of the business structurally sound, they have continued trading as best they can, having to re-route some of their electrical systems, tape down some carpet, and "make it work".

Their insurance company, FMG, had been great, as had some of their suppliers. And their six staff, who they were determined not to lose, had been supportive while they came up with a plan, Mr Windelborn said.

The damage was not covered by the Earthquake Commission because it was a commercial premises.

"Your cashflow stops, but your outgoings don't. You can see why some people get themselves in a hole and walk away from their businesses."

The pair hope that by the end of the month they will have moved the showroom, parts and sales side of the business to a new site, about half a kilometre up the road, in a shop adjoining the MacDougalls farm supplies building.

If they are able, they will leave the workshop where it is, and split the business between the two sites.

If they can't leave the workshop, plan B will be to move it back to the workshop at their home. As for the condemned part of the building, they did not know what its Palmerston North-based owner planned to do with it, or if it could be repaired.

"The biggest thing is trying to get word out there that we're still operating." Until it moves, Motorcycle HQ will be open for business as usual from the back entrance, accessed via Penny Lane.

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As of February 5, EQC had received 2950 claims relating to the January 20 quake, including 911 from Palmerston North, 430 from Tararua, 294 from Manawatu and 181 from Horowhenua.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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