Thomas Gilchrist and Sons Limited of the Māniototo

Paula Wagemaker, Judy Beck, John Hellier



Tucked away in the Māniototo region of Central Otago, Gilchrist and Sons General Store is a survivor. Operating under the same name and serving the same communities it did when business-savvy Thomas Gilchrist established it in 1902, the store is a living reminder of this once ubiquitous form of shopping in Aotearoa New Zealand. For decades, shops like Gilchrist’s sold everything from bread to bedding, cabbages to cigarettes, dusters to dynamite, fabrics to fencing, garters to gasoline, and much, much more, all crammed into one space.

These stores cum community hubs were most evident in rural towns and villages. All gave their customers per-sonalised service; most offered ‘store to door’ grocery and mail deliveries. The three generations of the Gilchrist family who owned the store and, for a time, an ancillary one at Ranfurly, excelled at both, and their customers knew it.

Set against the backdrop of the social, economic, and political forces that helped shape the fortunes of Gilchrist and Sons’ Ōtūrēhua store, the story this book tells is as much about the communities that benefited from the shop as it is about the shop itself, the enterprising and loved family who ran it for so long and the people who have kept it open since.

About the Authors

Paula Wagemaker (née Clarke) has worked in the publishing industry for over forty years in various roles, but primarily as an editor of numer-ous publications on all manner of topics. She has co-authored several non-fiction books. Recent years have seen her increasingly engaged in history-based research and writing alongside her ongoing editing work. Paula lives with her husband Steve Aldridge in a rambling mudbrick farmhouse, built c. 1879, in the Ida Valley.

Judy Beck (née Hardie) arrived in the Ida Valley in 1967 to teach at Ōtūrēhua’s primary school. The then twenty-year-old immediately became interested in the area because many of the surnames in the school’s register were the same as those on the registers of decades earlier. In 1970, she married local farmer Trevor Beck. His family had been customers of Gilchrist Store from the time it opened. Judy’s first published book was a co-authored history of local schools. Since then, she has published several other local histories, gaining her the well-earned title of district historian.

John Hellier could be termed a storyteller rather than a writer, but he has researched and written publications for Wyndham Rugby Club in Southland, including Wyndham Rugby Club: 100 Years, published by Craigs Printing in Invercargill in 2001. John and his wife Helen live in the Gilchrist family’s original homestead in Ōtūrēhua and together own and run Gilchrist Store’s business and its rural mail contracts that cover nine communities. John and Helen have four adult children and four grandchildren.

Look Inside


ISBN: 78-1-99-110301-7

Pages: 328

Dimensions: 280mm x 210mm

Authors: Paula Wagemaker, Judy Beck, John Hellier

Published: 10 August 2023