Businesses help revive city's beating heart

00:56, Nov 25 2013
SuRa sushi
DISCOUNTED PREMISES: SuRa Sushi's Jin-sung Jung and Kyung-Mee Lee.

A yoga studio, a sushi shop and a gift boutique go into a city centre. It could be the start of a complicated joke, but the reality is that some businesses are taking the first, hesitant steps back into the heart of Christchurch despite the challenges associated. What they have in common is a will to be part of the recovery, and a firm belief that more shops, businesses and punters will be back in the CBD soon.

Tough to find central city yoga premises

Hamish Kenworthy had to look for a place to open his yoga studio Apollo Power Yoga for a while before finding the perfect spot on the ground floor of the Ibis Hotel on Hereford St.

Apollo Yoga
CBD SPOT: Apollo Yoga's Hamish Kenworthy and Margo Perpick.

"We were determined to find premises in the central city. We wanted to provide this beneficial facility to those people who have already returned to the centre, and also to act as a drawcard to bring people back to the city's heart."

Finding premises was not easy, Kenworthy says.

"Real estate agents' websites mainly featured pictures of buildings which might have been built at some time in the future."


Fantail Gifts
DEBUT: Rebecca Slattery's Fantail Gifts was the first to reopen in Cathedral Junction.

A central location is not without its challenges, however.

"While we have our students relaxing into their poses we occasionally experience the sound of diggers across the street, and have to remind ourselves that the sound of the city being rebuilt is much better than the sound of the city not being rebuilt," says Kenworthy.

Because there are not many offices around yet, it is challenging to fill the courses. But moving to the CBD early meant more room for negotiation with the landlords.

"It wasn't the cheapest option, but we were able to negotiate important points of the contract."

For Kenworthy and his wife Margo Perpick, who helps him out with the business while still working at a legal practice, securing a space in the CBD is an investment for the future. They say many people started to do yoga in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

"A yoga studio is much like a heart, taking exhausted, depleted people in and then pumping them back out full of life and energy."

New High St outlet for quake-hit busienss

For Jin-sung Jung and his wife Kyung-Mee Lee, finding a place to reopen a sushi shop was easy. They had a good relationship with their previous landlord, who offered them a space in their new High St premises at a discounted price for the first year six months ago.

The couple, who lost their two restaurants in the February 2011 earthquakes, featured in a documentary about their experience in the quakes that screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

SuRa Sushi is part of a tiny strip of three businesses on High Street. There is the Avonmore tertiary institute's cafe next door, and a hairdresser.

"Not many people know we are here", Jung says, but enough regulars from the hospitality school next door, workers and tourists come by to keep him and his wife busy. And with the triangle centre that has just been demolished, people will now see the shop from Colombo St.

Gift shop first to open in Cathedral Junction

Rebecca Slattery had always wanted to have her own gift shop. When she moved to Christchurch, not long after the February 2011 earthquakes, she knew she wanted to secure a space in the centre of the city as soon as possible. Her shop, Fantail Gifts, was the first to reopen in Cathedral Junction about a month ago. Builders were still busy putting the last touches to the commercial centre.

Slattery did not get a discount to start with, but said the price was affordable. She says such a good location would have been completely out of her reach prior to the quakes. She hopes to see a central city repopulated with small businesses owners like her, while bigger businesses and famous brands prefer to be in malls where there is more foot traffic. She loves the grumble and the little "ding-ding" coming with the return of the tram.

"Everyone is excited to see the CBD come back to life."

The Press