A Martinborough Landmark, P & K has been in business since nearly the start of time in Aotearoa. Twas in fact 1873 when the tills rang for the first time. Back in those days Martinborough was nothing more than a cross roads that you and your mules could rest up at en route to the large surrounding farming district.
The founder was a Mr George Pain. He obviously had the gift of the gab as Pain is not an ideal surname for a door to door salesman. At age 19 Mr Pain was hawking goods from a wheelbarrow that he had walked over the hill from Wellington. The wheelbarrow progressed to a horse and then a team of horses and a cart. His business of selling mostly clothes to the land breakers in the district grew to a point when it was time to set up a trading post shop on the cross roads
In the early 1900s the local land baron Mr John Martin decided to set up a town (as you did in those days). Keeping his British heritage close to his heart he carved this new town up to resemble a Union Jack. He named all the streets after places he had visited in his travels and Martinborough was born.
Mr Pain heard about Mr Martin’s plans early in the piece and over a quiet beer offered to take what he thought was the best site on the town square. A handshake followed and construction commenced where the building P & K Grocery still operates from today.
It was a state of the art building for its time. It included all the trimmings of a flash department store of the day. A slick overhead pulley system fired steel canisters to the central concealed cash office. No cash was kept at the counters. This sorted out those pesky Wild West Wannabies from doing stickups.
The fleet of delivery horses had a custom made covered landing to reverse up to before loading up with supplies for the long haul out to the pioneers breaking in the land.
In a time when quality counted a store needed to reflect this so a beautifully ornate building façade was erected that would rival any High St building in the country at the time. Under this one grand roof was a Grocery, Haberdashery, Men’s Wear, Women’s Wear, Hardware Store and Homewares specialising in the finest crystal in the land.
At one stage there was even a rather large pretentious banner flying from one turret to another above the building for passing planes to take in. No doubt a ferocious ‘norwester’ wind came through to seize the day on this sign.
From hawking clothes from a wheelbarrow Mr Pain had now grown to be the Harrods of South Wairarapa. He had picked up a couple of business partners along the way. A Mr Haycock was first involved and they were joined by Mr Kershaw. Mr Haycock decide three was a crowd so went farming and Mr Pain went on in his successful entrepreneurial way to bigger and brighter land deals and the likes allowing Mr Kershaw to eventually buy his share. Part of the deal was that the Pain remained in the name. Mr Kershaw was only too happy to do this as a sign of respect to the true pioneer who built the business from a wheelbarrow.
In the last centenary of the last millennium P&K still had its fair share of ‘Pain’. A major fire in 1908 set the enterprise back by some 3000 pounds. Once on top of this the world was plunged into the great depression from 1929. As the visa card was still a few decades away from creation, P&K extended credit far and wide over these tough times to see people through. When the tables turned and the golden years came of wool being worth a pound for a pound, this extended credit paid dividends.
Not being shy of extending credit P & K used to offer a whopping 12 months credit to the outlying stations until their lucrative wool cheque rolled in.
In 1942 the town was shaken to its bones at 11.16pm with a 7.2 magnitude thumper. Miraculously no one was hurt as most were tucked up in bed. The beautiful frontage of P&K was thrown mostly to the ground and every window was broken. As there was a war raging around the world, the army was quick to jump in and give a hand to get the remainder of the facade safely to the ground. For six long years the windows remained boarded up as bombs and bullets had claimed so many windows around the world there was a global glass shortage that saw New Zealand miss out being on the bottom of the bottom of the world.
In the 1980s farming was struggling, there was a share market crash to contend with and rural towns were dying up and down the country. TV One News had done a special investigation into rural New Zealand’s decaying state and used Martinborough as an example. There were plenty of boarded up shop windows and signs of better years gone by, not to mention a few timely tumble weeds blowing down the main street.
In more recent years Martinborough has boomed away with the arrival of fantastic wines and an influx of both full time and part time residents following the lifestyle dream of quiet, beautiful New Zealand.
The Kershaw’s are holding the reins as caretakers of one of the oldest retailing businesses in the country.