Hokitika business to close after almost six decades

Tony Graham, of Graham Electronics, will ring up his last sale this week as he retires after 57 years on the job. PICTURE: Hokitika Guardian
Tony Graham, of Graham Electronics, will ring up his last sale this week as he retires after 57 years on the job. PICTURE: Hokitika Guardian

After close to six decades in business in Hokitika, Tony Graham of Graham Electronics, is preparing to close the doors and 'tune in' to retirement.

The keen musician and pioneering television repairman arrived in Hokitika at the same time as the 'box', starting up his own service on May 1, 1965.

"Hokitika got their tv translator operating earlier that year and I originally came over to sort out some of the problems the local retailer was having, with no experienced tv repairman in town," Mr Graham said.

Fifty-seven years later he is one of the longest serving retailers in town.

He was only 23 when he started his first Revell Street shop, the same weekend as the Haast Pass opened. He later built the current store which includes a large workshop where he has spent years fixing everything from tvs to transistor radios, music equipment and even jukeboxes.

The build started in 1973, but was delayed when the broadcaster switched off the local transmitters in favour of a large one in Greymouth for the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

Tony recalls a rush of work to get every one set up.

''A lot do people in towns only had rabbit ears so we were flat out trying to erect tv aerials.''

He thinks he must have been in every house in Hokitika at some stage, doing either repairs or installs.

''I used to have about eight tv repairs a day. I think my record was 34 in three day.''

Over the years as technology changed, Tony had to adapt his business and upskill.

''When I started, all tvs used valves. Transmitter radios had just come in, there were no cassette players and that was of course followed by CDs and then DVDs.''He has seen in the transition to satellite broadcast, and the switch from analogue to digital.

''When flat panel tvs came in the writing was on the wall that they were uneconomic to repair.''

In recent years, the music side of the business has kept him busy and in particular repairs to older style stereos. He said many customers had purchased their first music, be it records or cassettes, from his shop and were still regular customers.

''The comment we get now is what are we going to do when you retire?''

For the past 10 years, Tony has been inching towards retirement. However, the time had finally come.

''I just kept going because I could but now knowing how to do something and physically being able to do it is two different things.''

He had a few projects of his own that he wanted to tackle.

''I've got about 10 years of house maintenance to catch up on,'' he joked. He and wife Carolyn would also spend more time visiting family in Canterbury.

The shop has now been sold and the Grahams are busy clearing the last stock before closing up at the end of the week. However, the premises is not expected to be vacant for long with two existing businesses expected to relocate there.

- by Janna Sherman, of the Hokitika Guardian

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