New life has been breathed into an historic building at 154 Tay Street. Many people will remember the building as the bread shop in the 1980s, and a successful signwriting studio in the 1990s, but there has been many other uses for the site as well.
According to former owner Russell Everett, who had the signwriting studio there for 30 years, the building was originally used by joiners to make coffins for an undertaker.
Then it became a plumbing business and the place in town to buy a washing machine.
But when Southern Bread moved in the place really came to life.
Former co-owner Alistair Barclay was living in Christchurch at the time, and visiting the South when he told his partner Glenda Withington he was popping out for some fresh bread.
She just laughed as there was nowhere in Invercargill that made it, so Alistair said to her, “there will be by the time I have finished.”
The former kitchen manager at Christchurch Hospital threw in his job, the couple sold the few small properties they had, and headed south to set up their bread shop.
They borrowed $300,000 at 28% interest which was a heck of a lot of money back then, and got started.
Bakels sent him a sales representative to help him and he hired a baker from Bluff.
“We had queues down the street for weeks. We didn’t make anything else but bread in the beginning because we were so busy.”
Vans were heading to Bluff two to three times a week with fresh loaves ready for the fishing boats, and eventually they branched out into savoury breads and sweet breads (including chocolate and apple).
“It was insane. It was absolutely fabulous. Our bread shop was open all hours and we played odd music really loud,” he remembers fondly.
The now 75-year-old admits to being pretty cheeky and liked to do things his way.
Coca Cola threatened to take away his fridges because he was also filling them with other things – even though he sold the most coke in town.
He dumped the fridges out on the street and filled his own ones up with Pepsi instead. Of course people still bought it.
After the bread shop closed somebody else bought the place and made sausages for a short time, before Russell moved in with Everett Studios.
Although just a small business, he was largely successful and secured national contracts with companies such as Dominion Breweries in his 50-year career.
“A lot of people worked there over the years and for a long time,” he said.
But after he retired to Queenstown with wife Mandy, the building was abandoned for many years, until along came Tracey O’Neill – a former polytechnic tutor who needed a space to set up her eco products.
She and her partner convinced the new owner to pay for the materials needed to fix up the old building, and it’s now starting to pay off.
The couple recently spent nights and weekends for two months making the place habitable again, after it had been completely damaged by vandals.
“We had to make it watertight and that was hard. There was water everywhere and windows broken. Then there was the floor…”
The final job was to give it a good coat of paint on the inside to cover up all the graffiti.
Tracey was looking for a small shop for her ‘Somewhat Green’ business, and along with a friend who is a knitter, they managed to bring together six businesses to lease the space.
The rest is history – in the making. 154 Tay Street lives on.