Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Changing Customs

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Former Sunglass Bar in Customhouse Quay; about to become the new nzgirl shopThere'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".

Corner of Customhouse Quay and Willeston StThe 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!


At 10:39 pm, March 14, 2007, Blogger Homeperm said...

i have such affection for that corner, a result of having worked in the old bank building for three years i expect.

i used to be such a regular at the workingmans club. but after a year found the novelty had gone and i didn't renew my membership. i singlehandedly ruined the place. probably.

At 8:51 am, March 15, 2007, Blogger Hadyn said...

It's a shame the Sunglass Bar didn't do better. It just wasn't as good as it's Auckland version on Vulcan Lane. Brilliant store.

At 1:43 pm, March 15, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Hadyn: I only ever looked in there a couple of times, and it looked like they had pretty much the same selection as everywhere else, so I never bothered going back. It's a bit like shoe shops: there are lots of different shops around, but 90% of them just have variations on the same handful of brands. And for men's shoes in particular, the selection at the higher end of the quality scale is just appalling.

I really miss London sometimes.

At 3:53 pm, March 15, 2007, Blogger Hadyn said...

That's why the Auckland store is sooooo good. The woman who runs it was an expert and the stock was subtley more varied. I remeber walking in once and saying "I'd like brown lenses this year with a classic look" and she just blasted around the store until I walked out with a nice new pair of D&Gs which suited me perfectly.

It's like a tailor for your face.

Also they had a great repair policy, unlike Sunglass Hut which broke my partners glasses and then said "seems like there's a crack in the lens, how did that happen?"

At 4:08 pm, March 17, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I've found the Sunglass Store (I think that's the one: in Willis St) very good for repairs. In fact, I once went in there and asked sheepishly whether they could replace a missing screw in a pair of sunglasses which I didn't even buy there, and they were not only happy to do it, but didn't charge.

BTW, there's some rather cool, and very cool, men's sunglasses in Marvel at the moment.

At 12:52 am, March 19, 2007, Blogger David said...

The Rose and Crown used to be my local-to-work, years ago. I lost a mellowpuff eating contest there one night to a slip of a girl... she polished off the whole packet while I was still on my third puff.


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