On Saturday night we went to a truly swell party – the 60th birthday of David Kershaw, organised by his wife Ineke, who is possibly one of the most beautiful looking woman I have ever seen (and it’s not just skin deep). They’ve been so happily married for – oh I think about 33 years – and they are the unofficial Mayor and Mayoress, Godfather and Godmother, of this town.
Because David and Ineke (now largely superceded by their son Conor) run Pain & Kershaw, the local 4-Square grocery, with a haberdashery/clothing department, and a Mitre 10 hardware plus garden centre. But it’s more than just a business. They look after the community in ways many of us don’t ever see. For a start, they sponsor just about everything going in the town – sports, games, events, uniforms – whatever it is, you can guarantee P&K will put their hands in their pockets.
Secondly, they provide a fabulous service to everyone, especially the oldies. My mother, who moved here in April, has never encountered anything like it in the 87 years of her life. They deliver her groceries for free; they deliver her plants, compost, hardware for free; the super-friendly ladies and young girls on the checkout always have time for a chat. They know her by name, and they look out for her. Gary Jackson, the grocery manager, is also the chief fire officer, and garden/handyman who trims Mum’s hedges and trees (and led the charge to stop her house burning down when she put some fruit on the stove to cook and went out into the garden).
One day when I was waiting at the checkout an elderly, fairly frail, lady was getting her groceries, and she’d obviously carefully calculated the total price as she’d gathered her goods from the shelves. However, upon coming to pay she was about 80c short. She was terribly apologetic, and went to put the goods back, but the young girl on the counter was so cheery and nice. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, “I’ll just get it out of the jar.” And she reached under the counter and took the change from a jar kept there for goodness-knows-what emergencies.
Pain & Kershaw has been operating for 150 years, always in the Kershaw family, and Conor Kershaw, who is taking over from David, is quite the nicest young man in the town. Just like his parents. David Kershaw walks to work past Mum’s place and if she’s out in the garden, he always stops to have a chat with her.
Why am I blogging about this? Because I think it’s terribly important, in these internationally stricken financial times, that we celebrate communities, and the voluntary, unseen glue that holds them together. Not all business is evil; not all businessmen are greedy.
To give you the interesting history of Pain & Kershaw, I have copied the following from their website. So if you’re in Martinborough, be sure to pay them a visit. They have good Martinborough wines (including James Pinot Noir), organic goods, gluten-free goods, a fine deli, and much local produce.
South Wairarapa’s largest departmental store has grown from small beginnings. Originally set up by George Pain, who walked over to the Wairarapa (known as Widrop in those days) from Wellington, at the age of 19. Initialy he hawked his goods around the farming community. In 1872 he was able to set up a small general store on Wharekaka Plain selling mainly farm clothing. When John Martin cut up some of his land for townships, and started Martinborough, Mr Pain bought up what he considered the best sites and set his store up on them. In 1889, he sold the store to John Gallie, only to buy it back several years later. A Mr Haycock was taken on, and the store traded as Pain & Haycock. Shortly afterwards, a Mr Kershaw, who was running the grocery business bought a third share, two years later Mr Pain handed his share over to the two men, as he felt it was “too small for the three of us, and I was doing very well in other ways. I further said that whatever profits had been made in the two years they might divide between them,” wrote Mr Pain. From these generous beginnings was Pain and Kershaw born.
Survival against the odds
P & K has survived fire and huge financial loss (for those times, 1908: 3000 pounds sterling) The business came through the depression of 1929 and the 2 earthquakes of 1942. The latter did so much damage to the ornate concrete facade that the Army was called in to pull down the dangerously unstable masonry. The walls were boarded up and remained so for 6 years. The boarded up building was an eyesore to the town and as finance was available, plans were made to rebuild and enlarge the shop. The project took nine months to complete. More staff were needed to run the large complex. At its peak 26 persons were employed in the business. Over the years Pain & Kershaw have had some wonderfully loyal staff, among then Miss Campbell and Miss Thelma Feist, who spent her whole working life with the firm.
The Deliveries must get through!!
Pain and Kershaw¹s have always taken pride in their delivery service. A staff member used to cycle round the town every morning taking the orders for twice daily deliveries. Horses were a vital part of the P&K customer service.. until motor vehicles gradually took over from 1915. Regular deliveries went all the way out to the coast as well as around town and were an important part of the business. To keep the wheels turning needed 20 horses in 1914, but by 1926 only two were left (Dolly and Tutu). Once the vehicles had completely taken over, the land where the horses had been stabled was gifted to the town and known as Centennial Park today.