Shopping in Owaka

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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