A store full of memories in Mt Somers

By: Jill Malcolm


A store full of memories in Mt Somers A store full of memories in Mt Somers
A store full of memories in Mt Somers A store full of memories in Mt Somers
A store full of memories in Mt Somers A store full of memories in Mt Somers
A store full of memories in Mt Somers A store full of memories in Mt Somers
A store full of memories in Mt Somers A store full of memories in Mt Somers

Jill Malcolm discovers “an Aladdin’s cave of memorabilia” in the small Canterbury village of Mount Somers.

In the small inland village of Mt Somers, a freezing wind was whipping through the tussocks on the other side of the road from the General Store. The sky was still blue but clouds that looked heavy with snow were racing down from the Southern Alps.

In the window of the old store was a notice advertising ice for sale – a stunning bit of overkill in the circumstances. I pushed open the door and was enveloped in warm air and an Aladdin’s cave of memorabilia mixed with modern stock.

The sturdy Mt Somers Store has stood stoically through snow and tempest since 1924. It was built to replace the original, which had opened in 1892. A bakehouse was added in 1930 because owner Paddy Herron was apparently a baker of such reputation that customers came from as far away as Christchurch.

The bakery has gone and so have the Herrons but current owners, Jill and Greig Kerr, have ensured that the old character of the store remains central to its function. In one corner is a ‘cafe’ with 1940’s kitchen tables arranged around a wood stove. The coffee Jill served me was thoroughly modern.

And woven through the present-day produce and groceries is memorabilia from the stores long life, among them an old cash register, scales (1895), tins, gas lanterns, tools, an Imperial typewriter, a milkshake machine, the model of a 1930’s delivery truck, and a book of Aunt Daisy’s handy hints. 

The store is no less of a community hub today, not just a mix of old and new but a grocer, chemist, cattery, post shop, fuel station, and supplier of sports and fishing goods. The owners sell tickets for conservation huts in the district, rent personal locator beacons to trampers, offer local advice and are noted for making sizeable ice creams.

It isn’t, however, a camping ground. "That’s in the lovely tree-shaded Holiday Park," Jill told me. "At the end of the road."

Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.

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