Harbour St stalwart changes hands

The new co-owners of Presence on Harbour Brendan Rivalin (left) and Yuli Lin (right) take advice...
The new co-owners of Presence on Harbour Brendan Rivalin (left) and Yuli Lin (right) take advice from previous owner Dawn Brown. PHOTO: NIC DUFF
Dawn Brown has been the owner of the popular Presence on Harbour gift shop in Oamaru for almost a decade, and has been with the business from the beginning.

Vaughan and Tracy Tessier-Varlet opened the store on Labour Weekend in 2013 and Mrs Brown took over the ownership the following September.

New owners Brendan Rivalin, from France, and Yuli Lin, from Taiwan, took over this week.

Mrs Brown said the couple had previously worked at the Moeraki Boulders Restaurant and Gift Shop and Moeraki restaurant Fleur’s Place.

She would miss the people and had happy memories from "meeting lots of people", both locals and visitors from New Zealand and overseas, Mrs Brown said.

"The people, Waitaki, the community.

"Harbour St has a great set of tenants now. It’s good.

"It’s nice that the borders are open again and the streets are busy."

Although "Covid was tough" on businesses, Mrs Brown credited New Zealanders and "good staff" for their support.

"New Zealanders were good.

"They did get out and explore their own country.

"The North Islanders did come down and explore.

"It kept us afloat.

"If I hadn’t had such good staff, it would have probably been a lot more difficult.

"They were very accommodating.

"You’ve got to be passionate.

"If you’re an owner-operator you’ve got to put in the hours."

Mrs Brown has a background from the United Kingdom in conference and banqueting sales, in the service industry, before having children.

When her children were old enough she started part-time work for Brydone Growers in the Brydone Wholefoods store at Totara and she enjoyed the farm work and farm lifestyle.

"I was brought up on a dairy farm in Dorset, nothing like the scale that there is here.

"I rode horses, [did] calf-rearing and I worked on an organic egg farm.

"We had a lifestyle block."

She said she had enjoyed sourcing products for the gift store and the creative people she got to meet.

As well as the interesting visitors to the store, that provided her creative inspiration of her own.

"We had a little blue penguin wander in one day and that started me thinking.

"I’ve written two children’s books (Percy the Little Blue Penguin and Percy’s Return) on their life cycle and we’ve done a colouring book as well."

The books have been translated into Mandarin with some help, she said.

"Tourism Waitaki had a couple of staff members that did that for me.

"This was all pre-Covid."

Mrs Brown said they moved to the Waitaki district in 2003 because there was a job opportunity for her husband and they wanted to give their two daughters the same lifestyle they had growing up.

"I grew up on a farm and my husband grew up in New Forest, so we wanted them to have that a bit more and we didn’t like the way Britain, perhaps, was going.

"We thought we’d have more opportunities for them."

She has enjoyed the lifestyle they have here and they have no plans to leave.

"That’s why we’re not really going anywhere.

"We like the sea and my husband fly-fishes, so he likes the lakes and the rivers, and we like cycling when we get a chance.

"It’s a bit more laid back here and people have got time for each other, which I think is lovely."

Mrs Brown and her husband, Marcus, plan to spend time in the United Kingdom visiting family, before returning to the Waitaki district.

They are looking forward to new developments for the family.

"I’m going to take it a little bit easy.

"We’re having a house built, and move into a new house in August.

Although Mrs Brown said eventually she might have to find some part-time work again, she was looking forward to "some R&R" first.