Rebuilt Raglan wharf buzzing with business

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 09:13 08/01/2014
Raglan wharf
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

Back in action: Raglan wharf is again busy with holidaymakers like Matt Davis having been rebuilt after fire gutted wharf buildings in 2010.

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The renowned Raglan wharf - gutted by fire in 2010 - is almost back in full business, with just one more lease at the blue sheds to be secured.

Almost four years ago fire left three businesses, and around 20 staff, without a home.

The Waikato District Council, which owns the wharf sheds, decided to repair them at an estimated cost of just under $430,000, with an additional $60,000 set aside.

The new premises were opened in August 2012.

The council expects the remaining lease to be taken up soon, having already secured tenancy agreements with former wharf businesses Tony Sly Pottery and Raglan Seafood, former leaseholder the Raglan Coastguard, and two new businesses, Raglan Vintage and Retro, and Soul Shoes.

Raglan Vintage and Retro will officially open its wharf store on February 1, operating until then out of its current premises on the main street of Raglan.

Waikato District Council acting chief executive Tony Whittaker said the council was happy with how the rebuild and leasing process had gone. The only problem so far was a lack of parking space for the businesses.

Rob Galloway, owner of Soul Shoes along with partner Marie de Jong, said they were worried moving to the wharf from the main street would be a bit of a gamble but decided just over a year ago to take the risk.

"We actually expected things would be worse than in town but it hasn't proved that [way]. It's actually been better.

"It is a destination, and obviously the fish and chip shop attracts a lot of people."

Sue Marrow, who owns Raglan Vintage and Retro with husband Paul, said they decided to move as they needed more space.

"I want to get into more interesting furniture and things like that."

She said the wharf now had sufficient reputation to ensure enough customers passed by every day.

"We've got Tony Sly Pottery, we've got Soul Shoes - they're two New Zealand-known, established businesses. We've got the best fish and chip shop in town, we've got coffee.

"It's becoming more touristy. But the locals would use it for the fish and chips and the Marlin Cafe and Grill across the road. So there's quite a good little hub thing happening."

Tony Sly, owner of Tony Sly Pottery, said the wharf was getting busier as Raglan got busier.

He had managed to extend his lease to two spaces, and was happy with his new home.

"Really it's tidied the wharf up, it's a fantastic public asset. It will be nice to have another few businesses here."

He hoped the remaining lease would go to another design or craftmaker, to keep the feel of the wharf consistent.

Mark Mathers owns the well-known fish and chip shop Raglan Fish, and Raglan Seafoods, both of which operate out of the wharf and occupy three leases between them.

He said business had been fantastic over the past month, with record numbers of customers.

However, he much preferred the old building.

"The old wharfies had their names carved in the beams. It was rustic, falling to bits, had leaks in it . . . it had so much character."

Holidaymaker and Raglan regular for the last seven years Matt Davis agreed.

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"In one sense it's better because there are shops down here, but it has lost a bit of its charm," he said.

"It is busier. There used to be heaps more people fishing. It has lost that seasideness . . . people coming down with their kids."

Fellow fisherman and holidaymaker Charles Barrett, who has been visiting Raglan and fishing from the wharf regularly over the past decade, said that while a lot of the fishing space was gone, the change was a positive.

"I don't mind it at all. It's something good for Raglan."

Natalie Bell, who has been coming to the holiday town for 10 years but hadn't been to the wharf before the fire, said it was on her list of favourite spots now.

"Some friends in town said come and try out the fish and chip shop. We love it. We come back every time."

- Waikato

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