There's a lot of excitement around town (though tinged with scepticism) about the imminent opening of a certain shop in Lambton Quay. Meanwhile, just around the corner in Customhouse Quay, another new shop is about to open: much smaller and quite a bit more local. Next Wednesday (the 21st), the site of the former Sunglass Bar will reopen as New Zealand's second (and Wellington's first) nzgirl shop.
That's one shop replacing another, but it's interesting to look back a few years and see how far this stretch of Customhouse Quay and the intersecting Hunter St have come. There have long been places like Zambesi and Pravda to make it something of a destination, but retail had been fairly patchy around here. Then in the last few years we've seen a lot of "retail infill", whereby former office lobbies and other neglected spaces have been turned into retail tenancies. Fashion businesses like Out There Clothing, Miriam Gibson and Pearl moved in, and now that Bose and Basquesse have opened in the long-empty spaces at the base of the Todd Building, most of the formerly blank and unfriendly edges between Post Office Square and Willeston St have come alive. It's now a genuine part of the "silver mile".
The Willeston St corner is a special case. It's opposite what's known locally as "Stewart Dawsons corner", and before that as "Clay Point" or "Windy Point" (as opposed to the breathless calm of the rest of Wellington, presumably). Traditionally, it has been one of Wellington's busiest corners for foot traffic, and yet the opposite corner hardly took advantage of it. The faceted glass building that will soon house the nzgirl shop once had a strange cut-away corner, with fiddly steps leading down into the underground BNZ mall. When it was first proposed to fill this in a few years ago, the original proposal was to build a huge, two-storey Levi's "concept store", but that was then scaled back to a much smaller store and a couple of other outlets.
The final transformation of this space is about to occur, as the late and not particularly lamented Rose & Crown, which spent a couple of decades in its semi-subterranean lair before succumbing to the curse of the Workingmen's Club last year, will reopen next week as a new branch of Sports-Wide. A pub turning into a gym? Surely that's a backwards step for civilisation!