Mary Jane Bailey from Lemon Tree Lane and Pat Ashton from The Pantry Door say Stoke is open and thriving. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Stoke is ‘open for business’

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Stoke retailers have hit back at the idea that the suburb is shutting up shop saying that they are open for business and offer one of the most unique shopping experiences in the region.

Mary Jane Bailey runs Lemon Tree Lane which has been open for six years and she says each of the locally-owned and operated retailers offers something unique.

“What we’ve got to offer is amazing community connection, I would know the names of 75 per cent of my customers and the names of their grandchildren probably.

“Where else in town would you be able to go into a store and say ‘hey, next time you’re on a buying trip could you keep an eye out for one of these for me’? Well you can here, and we really try hard to stock what people want and need, and we can keep our prices low because the rents are a fraction of what they pay in Nelson.”

She says although the fruit and veg store Benge and Co has closed, that only creates a unique opportunity for another retailer to nab a prime spot in the high-growth suburb.

“The larger businesses leaving Stoke such as Kiwibank and Ministry of Social Development; that’s a national problem, not a Stoke problem.”

Last week, due to an editing error the Nelson Weekly reported that Kiwibank had closed, rather than it had announced its closure. The bank says it will stay in Stoke until NZPost can find a business partner.

Mary Jane says that the retailers all work together to make sure they are each stocking different items.

“So, while Stoke doesn’t have a lot of shops, we do have a lot of options within our stores.”

Pat Ashton says for him and his wife Phillipa, Stoke was an easy choice to open their store ‘The Pantry Door’.

“Yes, we’ve lost some [shops] but if you go in and actually study those, none of them warrant that negative feeling, they all have their own reasons why they have gone over the years.”

Pat says Stoke is a very different place to what it was many years ago and the supportive community has seen their business grow from strength to strength.

“The perception is now that we have a growing community around us, and we have to grasp that as retailers.

“We’ve been here two years now and our business is going up and up, as are many others, there’s definitely no regrets.”

Lynley Gilchrist-Lunn has recently opened a new base for her cafe The Garden Window at the Greenmeadows Centre and says the new space is “beautiful”.

“There’s a lot going on here in Stoke, there’s a really big initiative from council to try and regenerate Stoke. It’s no good saying ‘oh there’s nothing there, I’ll start going to Richmond’ if people want something, they need to come down here and tell someone.

“If you want to live here you may as well make it the best place that you can.”