From the domain of the gentry to Little Polynesia and onwards through time to the Mochaccino Mile, Ponsonby has undergone massive change since its time as a landing pad for recent arrivals to New Zealand, and is now considered one of the more trendy parts of Auckland, and by extension the country. Fitting then that Barkers new guide shop concept store is set to open in the iconic Tatty’s villa this week, continuing the Barkers tradition of effortless style with classic quality.
Known as Te Rimu Tahi by local Maori, in honour of a rimu tree which stood somewhere near the intersection of Ponsonby and Karangahape roads, Ponsonby’s boundaries have crept ever outwards from the ridge that runs north towards the sea.
Early European involvement in the area was mostly religious, with numerous churches and schools being established throughout the mid to late 19th century. The beachfront villas of Freeman’s Bay provided sea views for the more wealthy residents while inland areas saw more intensification as the slow economic conditions of the late 1880’s dissipated.
By the turn of the century Ponsonby and Freemans Bay had become working class suburbs, and a burgeoning centre of working class resistance. Many now-famous union leaders lived in the area including future Prime Ministers Peter Fraser and Michael Joseph Savage. Helen Clark also later lived in a flat here.
From the 1930s onwards however the economic prospects of the area had rapidly deteriorated. Severe worldwide recession saw New Zealand’s Exports fall by 45 per cent in two years, while national income decreased by 40 per cent in three years. Freemans Bay became quite literally a slum, with 35 percent of houses unfit for habitation, while Ponsonby survived only through its ability to provide low-cost accommodation close to the city centre. As rural Maori began their historic gravitation towards New Zealand’s cities following the second world war, a comparable influx of polynesian migrants saw the suburb swell with recent arrivals, creating a cultural melting pot more typical these days of parts of South Auckland. The area also boomed with cultural centres and sports grounds, many of which remain today.
By the 1970s, cheap rent and a thriving culture saw a bohemian movement spring up in Ponsonby. Musicians, artists, poets and drug addicts thronged to the boarding houses, halfway houses, and giant Edwardian villas that remained immovable. And, as seen the world over, the bohos are just the first wave of any process of gentrification.
Over the next 20 years Ponsonby would evolve into something resembling the Mochaccino Mile we see today. As industry moved outwards from the city centre, so too did most of the low-wage employees and the various cultural infrastructure that supported them. In its place rose an exceedingly trendy suburb, where the bougiest of Auckland’s who’s-who shop, wine and dine to this day, sampling the finest cuisine, the strongest drinks and the most beautiful people the city has to open.
And it’s here in the modern, thriving Ponsonby Road that the new Barkers guide shop concept store is based. A collaboration between Barkers, Barkers Groom Room and Mr Toms, the store is housed in the iconic Tatty’s villa, extensively restored from a fading building on the brink of demolition into a state of the art retail environment.
This new concept retail experience offers customers an end-to-end Barkers experience. The guide shop concept combines the excellent style and service Barkers is renown for, with the convenience of a digital online shopping experience. One of the guide shop stylists will put together your perfect look, then rather than lumping your shopping around all day - your new wardrobe will be delivered direct to your door. That will leave your hands free visit to the Groom Room for a high level grooming experience. The in store Archie’s Cafe from Mr Toms will serve Atomic coffee and a range of specialty toast with seating inside and in the laneway beside the store extending out to a back deck. It's the Barkers you know and love, with a trendy Ponsonby twist.