by Chris Tobin
Mounting debts are forcing a Timaru woman to close her second-hand shop which she established in memory of her mother to help the elderly and people suffering from dementia.
“It breaks my heart to walk away from all this,” a tearful Tracey Shaw said.
Ms Shaw set up the shop in south Stafford St almost opposite the Theatre Royal in September last year after her mother, Linda Turnbull (88), died of dementia.
“I wanted to do something to help people understand the disease more.”
While selling second-hand goods, the shop also served as a drop-in centre for the elderly to relax and have a cup of tea.
Not long after taking up the shop, which she rented from her then landlords for $600 a week, it was bought by Timaru District Holdings Ltd (TDHL), the financial arm of the Timaru District Council, as were several other neighbouring shops.
She was disappointed to learn from the other business owners that they paid less rent, from $100 to $300 weekly.
A spokesperson for TDHL confirmed the holding company owned the property, which was let on commercial terms.
“As with any commercial landlord, Timaru District Holdings Ltd charges different levels of rent depending on the size and condition of the building in question. All commercial tenancies were continued on the same terms as they were when the buildings were purchased.
“TDHL is in current negotiations with the tenant, and while these are ongoing it would be inappropriate to discuss these matters in the media.”
Ms Shaw’s hope was to contribute some of the shop’s takings to Dementia Awareness and other charities.
This became impossible as her debts mounted.
Things spiralled downwards for her shop when she made a trip to England for a wedding where her two sons lived.
“I had time with my kids; it was a free trip. My son paid for it.”
On returning to New Zealand, she found volunteers had not opened the shop for a period during her absence.
“I told them off for shutting the shop while I was away. I had four of them and they left.”
Ms Shaw attempted to run the shop on her own but the rising debts and personal difficulties, which included her brother in Timaru suffering from dementia and a brain injury, have made it almost impossible.
Before coming to Timaru, Ms Shaw ran a similar shop in Rotorua which she established after living in Australia.
“I hit rock bottom in Australia. I lost everything, my car and home.”
While working as a retail manager for Australian Geographic in Melbourne, Ms Shaw smashed a knee after falling off a ladder .
Being a New Zealander, she was not entitled to welfare assistance.
“I couldn’t get anything and ended up at the railway station wanting to jump in front of a train. An old neighbour of mine noticed me there and picked me up. Next day she bought me a ticket to Auckland.”