The owner of Johnson’s Grocery in downtown Christchurch says it is time to retire and the store will close by the end of January.
Johnson’s Grocery originally opened in 1911 under another name and Colin’s father bought the business in 1949. Colin started his working life as a delivery boy, taking groceries on his bicycle to the store’s customers.
The Colombo St shop was destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake five years ago, but Johnson was undeterred, becoming one of the first tenants to sign up for the Re:Start container mall, the temporary hub of downtown retail business while the city centre was rebuilt.
“When I lost my shop in Colombo St, it was the highlight of my working life to be able to come here. It’s been really wonderful,” he told Georgina Campbell of Stuff.co.nz in an interview. (You can read it here.)
A hallmark of the store’s history has been its old fashioned service – and shelves stacked high to the ceiling with goods from around the world. Locals and tourists alike could find delicacies such as Scottish Haggis, snails, Turkish halva, French foie gras, Twiglets, French chestnuts, French duck confit, American grape nuts, walnut whips, Birds custard, Yorkshire tea, anchovy sauce, Quality Street sweets, Italian nougat, Maraschino cherries, and Gentleman’s Relish.
Stuff readers were eager to pay tribute to Johnson and his father, with some 57 comments posted expressing sadness at what is an end of an era for Christchurch’s CBD.
“As a child and as an adult going into the Colombo St store was always magical,” recalled one.
“The smells, the rickety shelves with all the Twinings tea canisters along the top, the bags of giant jelly beans and liquorice allsorts stacked in wicker baskets by the door and being able to get a slice of cheese that had been delicately cut with piano wire, just awesome.
“And Colin’s dad would always have a chat and nothing was ever a bother. Totally something that modern retailers and shops do not appreciate. I’ve loved taking my children into the shop in Re:Start and seeing their eyes widen with amazement at all the sweets and everything else.
“It will be missed but thank you for being part of our wonderful city – a real treasure,” the customer concluded.