Shopping in Owaka

By: Jill Malcolm


Catlins Country Store Catlins Country Store
Catlins Country Store Catlins Country Store
Catlins Country Store Catlins Country Store
Catlins Country Store Catlins Country Store
Catlins Country Store Catlins Country Store

As the gateway to the Catlins, Owaka is putting itself more firmly on the travellers’ map.

Although the village still snoozes through the winter, in summer new cafes and retail shops give it a jaunty air.

In the last year or so, a grey, brick-solid workshop has become the Catlins Country Store, comprising a stylish clothing boutique called the Black Sheep, a shop of collectibles and tucked almost out of sight, an old door that leads to The Man Cave.

At the cave’s entrance was a sign: "Beer – helping white men dance since1892". It set the tone for my encounter with the collection of rusty tools, machinery, pitsaws, saddles, and the sort of paraphernalia that seems to strike a chord in every man’s heart.

Much of it was from the time forestry flourished in the area. Among the items was a rather unfortunate life-sized model of a lumberjack in a check shirt. A spider had taken up residence and from his nose dangled a large cobweb.

Much of the stuff was gathered by Doug Scoles, who ran the garage in Owaka for many years. The collection lay in his workshop, which also housed a bar (Doug’s Man Shed) where every Friday night the local lads gathered for a beer or two or three. Doug recently baled out and the collection was bought by Pounawea man, Dave Catherwood.

Scattered through the artefacts are man-type messages : ‘My garage, my rules’; ‘Whenever I think of exercise, I wash my mouth out with beer’.

In a small room is an office filled with dust and items such as old tobacco tins and matches. A stuffed duck is pinned to a wall and so is a notice: "This room equipped with Edison electric light. Do not attempt to light with a match. Turn the key by the door." In another small room is the infamous bar with a fireplace and collections of old gramophones, bakelite records and beer bottles. It still looks cosily congenial.

In a cabin next door to the Catlin’s Country Store, Dave has also set up The Bakehouse Cafe, where according to a group of Asian tourists, he makes the best bacon and egg butties in New Zealand.

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

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