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.