Shops that pass in the night 10
After Leather Direct moved down from 177 Cuba St to take over from Bellamys Bookshop at number 105, its old shop was taken over by DJ equipment supplier DMC. With Mojo Sound, Slowboat Records, the San Francisco Bath House and Valve all in the vicinity, that makes this the most muso-friendly block of Cuba St. DMC's move left a gap in Manners Mall that has just been filled by a branch of Auckland-based streetwear and graffiti-supplies retailer Loaded, further entrenching Manners Mall's reputation as the hoodie mecca of Wellington. To be fair, though Loaded stocks all the usual brands (Dickies, Carhartt, Nike), it also has a few more interesting items that I haven't come across before, and the upstairs trainer temple would be enough to get any sneakerphiliac drooling.
Next door to DMC at 175 Cuba St, there's been a less convoluted chain of events. The China House moved out, and while they still have an outlet at the Wellington Market (but not for long), I haven't heard of any plans to open a replacement shop. The space is just about ready to open as the Wellington branch of Illicit Boutique, complete with murals by their good friend Misery. The location of this long-awaited development could hardly be better: along with Popup, Eyeball Kicks and Calico Jacks, it will form a tight little cluster of skull-obsessed emo-chic.
What does all this mean for Wellington? After unravelling all the moves, effectively we've had a (grumpily) independent second-hand bookshop replaced by a brand-laden purveyor of globally commodified yoof culture, and a nationwide chain of furniture importers replaced by a nationwide chain of hipster-friendly quasi-goth fashion. There's a slight trend towards gentrification and homogenisation, but it's hardly rapid given that the whole process has taken most of a year. Also, since China House's wares are still available, it's resulted in a slight increase in the diversity of products available in the city.
The demand for retail space still appears to be strong (there are only two spaces left in the new Chaffers Dock development!), so affordable shop space may become scarcer with time. On the other hand, the overall supply will increase once all the retail components of Harbour Quays, the waterfront and Chews Lane come onto the market, as well as all the surviving buildings around the bypass. With luck, all the upmarket and chain stores will find the space they need up the northern end of town, allowing Cuba St to do what it does well.