Historic store on the market

Gilchrist's Store owners John and Helen Hellier are surrounded by history in their Oturehua...
Gilchrist's Store owners John and Helen Hellier are surrounded by history in their Oturehua business. The lease of the business is for sale, but the freehold will remain in community ownership. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Oturehua's historic general store business is for sale, but its owners are not sure what they will do after it is sold.

Gilchrist's Store owner-operators John and Helen Hellier confirmed yesterday the store's lease was for sale.

The building, thought to be New Zealand's oldest continuous general store business, was built in 1899 and taken on by Thomas Gilchrist in 1902, Craig Bates of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, who is marketing the store, said.

Run by Mr Gilchrist's descendants for three generations, the original store and Gilchrist family homestead went into community ownership in 1996 after Herb and Bruce Gilchrist, the grandsons of Thomas Gilchrist, retired.

The store, used by Oturehua residents and visitors, including those on the Otago Central Rail Trail, sells general grocery products and Central Otago craft items and features memorabilia such as the original telephone exchange and tinned coffee and food from the late 1800s.

The business also comprises a bed and breakfast, a New Zealand Post depot and two rural delivery runs serving 150 rural families.

Between the 1920s and the 1940s the business also incorporated a bakery, and employed up to 12 people.

Now, three people, including the Helliers, worked fulltime at the business and "a handful" of casual employees helped in the store and with rural postal delivery when needed, Mr Hellier said.

He said he and his wife were "ready to move on" from the business, although it was too soon to say what they would do after the business was sold.

Mr Hellier said as well as providing a crucial service to Oturehua and surrounds, the business had supported an "excellent lifestyle" for him and his wife.

"With an established customer base going back generations, service to the community underpins the business, both for the store itself and the rural delivery runs ... Oturehua is not just somewhere to stop for an ice cream halfway between Wanaka and Dunedin; it has great character and heritage of its own."

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