August 28, 2012
Wee Birdy in New Zealand: Re:Start
Last week I travelled to New Zealand for a four-day trip to Christchurch and Mt Hutt. Sadly, I’d never visited Christchurch before the devastating earthquake in February 2011, but the signs of destruction were immediately apparent on the drive from the airport: countless churches with missing spires; buildings surrounded by rubble and “danger” signs pinned to construction sites. I felt an emotional connection to the city as the earthquake occurred just days after my son was born last year, and I distinctly remember clutching him in my hospital bed as the tragic events in Christchurch unfolded on the TV screen.
Fast forward 18 months and I find myself perched on a stool in a cafe on Cashel Street, just metres away from the rubble of the Cathedral in the middle of the city’s no-go red zone. But this is no ordinary bricks-and-mortar cafe – in fact, there’s no bricks and mortar at all. The cafe is in a shipping container, and it’s part of a clever initiative called Re:START, offering many of the retailers dislocated from the devastation of the earthquake an opportunity to rebuild their businesses, as well as bringing people – and a new community – back into the the centre of the city.
The shipping containers themselves look fantastic, adding a level of excitement and edginess to the city’s historic centre. There is some subtle landscaping around the village, giving it green urban vibe. At the moment there are 27 retailers, including banks, cafes and gift shops – and there is free wi-fi throughout (a boon for a travelling blogger). I spent Sunday afternoon browsing through the temporary village, and discovered quite a few wee gems.
Here are my top six must-visit shops at Re:Start:
1. HAPA: design-led gifts, art, jewellery, toys and homewares by local designer-makers (including the Kia Ora mugs in the top pic).
2. The General Store: delightful gifts, homewares, toys and art by local and international designers.
3. Johnson’s Grocery: imported sweets and goodies from around the world, including haggis, Stilton and Maynard wine gums.
4. Infinite Definite: local and international fashion for men and women, including Riddle Me This, Salasai and Stolen Girlfriends Club.
5. Scorpio Books: fabulous independent book store with an extensive New Zealand and Maori collection including fiction and natural history.
6. Ballantynes Contemporary Lounge: local and international contempoary fashion designers for men and women, including Karen Walker, Scotch & Soda and Ketz-Ke.
I’ll be showing you some of these shops (and some of my wee Kiwi finds) in more detail over the next few days.