New business Colony opened this week in The Crossing but has a long history in NZ. We met with the owners' Kris Jansen and Andrew Plimmer to find out more about them and why they have opened in Central City.
Above: Andrew Plimmer & Kris Jansen
How long has your family been in business?
Our story starts in 1860, when Louisa emigrated to New Zealand with her family. A few years later, Johan came to New Zealand to dig for gold, among thousands of other hopeful pioneers.
Johan married Louisa in 1868 in the Bendigo goldfields of Central Otago and that same year, Louisa, along with the Hansen Brothers (Johan and his brother Lars) set up their first merchant store in Pollen Street, Thames.
The business name Colony relates to the bee community. Does this reflect some of the family business histories?
Yes, it does. The family established a sustainable farming community called "Beeville" in the central North Island, built on principles of ethical and healthy living - well ahead of their time.
Growing up with such strong values and closeness to nature, and the bee in particular, has been a strong influence for Kris in the direction of Colony. Watching her father Robin work carefully with bees and talk of their importance and ecology has meant that it has always been about more than just honey.
Kris opened her first store at Lindale, Kapiti in 1995, then her Honeymeisters store in Wellington in 2004.
I understand you have a quake story that relates to your business?
We were living in North Canterbury and producing our honey on our lifestyle block, and were just about to sign a lease for a store in Christchurch when the quakes hit. (Kris' partner Plimmer was actually in Cashel Mall when the big quake struck.) It has been a goal to open a Christchurch store ever since as we feel such a connection here.
What drove the decision to open up in Central City and The Crossing?
We have been keeping a close eye on the progress of Christchurch and just in the past year it has really come to life in the CBD, thanks to a really committed effort of local developers and the business community. The Crossing is a beautiful space that aligns with our own values and the boutique nature of our store experience. Every day we meet people who are only just starting to explore downtown again, and they are all really excited about what is happening here.
Where's your go-to for presents in the CBD?
As a Kiwi business, we always try to support other independent Kiwi retailers, and we love making discoveries as we explore the lanes around the city.
Is there a special place you enjoy eating and or drinking in the CDB?
For breakfast or brunch, we've always enjoyed Black Betty - a great institution that was there throughout. Christchurch has an amazing (and often under-rated) food scene, so for dinner or a night out we make a point of always trying somewhere new, and these days it seems like we are always finding somewhere we haven't tried before. The new Terraces river strip is amazing, and we have been known to start with a meal and finish with a late night!
Above: Black Betty Cafe
If you had one wish for the CBD, what would it be?
For people to come in and discover what is here. It has been a tough ride for Christchurch, but a lot of locals we talk to haven't been into the city for years and perhaps don't understand what it is like now.
Christchurch should be proud.