Otaki says ‘farewell’ to Edhouses after 91 years

Don and Pat Edhouse with Joan Hazelwood (rear) model the latest Edhouse hats
Don and Pat Edhouse with Joan Hazelwood (rear) model the latest Edhouse hats

Some years ago, a button came off my corduroy jacket. I asked my wife if she had a replacement. No luck. In desperation, I took the jacket to Edhouses, and asked the woman behind the counter if they sold buttons. She took me to the habadashery department. Needless to say there were more buttons than you would believe, and I came away with an exact match. That’s what Edhouses has always been about.

Gossiping with friends, it’s apparent that Edhouses has, over the years been all things to all people. Back in my parents day, you would have gone there for Manchester. To those of us under fifty, Manchester is the term used to describe household linen or cotton goods, such as sheets and towels. But wait, there’s much, much more.

In times gone by, when there were saleyards in Waerenga Road, farmers would come to the stock sales, and their wives would go to Edhouses. The shop was one of the first department stores on the Kapiti coast, selling everything from fabrics to underwear, shoes, overcoats, hats, scarves and any item of clothing you could ever want.

Wiser people than me observed that whoever was the buyer for Edhouses, they had a very good eye. An eye for fashion, an unerring eye for what people wanted, be they dedicated followers of fashion or plain Janes, you could always get what you wanted at Edhouses. And better still, the staff treated you with courtesy, with understanding and sympathy. You would always depart Edhouses with something that you would wear forever, something that you would come to treasure.

But all good things must end.

Back before the war, the main street wasn’t sealed, there was a hitching rail outside Edhouses and in the evenings a lamplighter would light the gas lamps. Most of Edhouses stock was imported. By the 1970s, 80% of Edhouses stock was New Zealand made, the economy was buoyant and Otaki like every small country town had a self-contained economy, with everyone able to buy what they needed without leaving town.

How things have changed. Today over 80% of goods are imported, mostly from China. Levin, once a centre of textile production has lost virtually everything and people buy either online or from mega-stores. Don Edhouse recalls how every town once had large department stores. Today they’re virtually all gone. Now, finally Otaki’s losing its iconic shop that has become a link with times gone by.

Don and Pat are off to a well-deserved retirement, the loyal staff of Edhouses will look back on a wonderful emporium, a great employer, and a shop that we’ll never see the likes of again. Never.

 

Thank you Edhouses, you made the lives of every person in Otaki a bit special. We’ll miss you.

by LLOYD CHAPMAN

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