August 29, 2019
(image by Kevin Hill)
Devonport, known for its quaint Victorian and Edwardian buildings that line the main street, has one particularly unique commercial property that speaks to a totally different era; it’s the beautifully restored art deco Post Office. Eddie and Sharon de Heer purchased the property in 2008 and share with us the ups and downs of owning and loving heritage architecture.
Tell us a little about yourselves – how long have you lived in Devonport, what has been your involvement in the community?
Sharon and I have lived in Devonport since 2008. We hadn’t spent much time in Devonport before moving here, but now we can’t imagine living anywhere else. Devonport has a real village feel, but being only ten minutes on ferry to the city means we can experience the best of both worlds. And of course, you can’t beat living by the sea. I (Eddie) was President of the Devonport Business Association for two years and during my time as President I focused on getting the DBA ready to become a Business Improvement District. Sharon and I have also had two retail businesses during our time here
When did you buy the old Post Office and what was it like when you bought it?
We purchased it in 2007 from Mr Bryan Jackson. Mr Jackson operated a museum of sorts at the rear of the building, with many interesting and unusual objects on display. He had altered many of the original features, and had also added a few interesting ‘tweaks’ of his own such as the gazebo on the roof.
What renovations and repairs have you made since owning it?
In 2008 - 2009 we renovated the ground floor and rear of the building. Throughout this process we tried to restore it to its former glory as much as possible. This included removing 5 layers of flooring before we found the original kauri timber flooring. We also discovered the original colours of the building and re-painted it to match the way it was. One and a half years later we opened it as a retail and office space. In 2009 we were awarded the NZ Institute of Architects award in the heritage category, something we’re hugely proud of. We have recently completed a renovation to the top two levels, splitting these into two separate apartments, one of which is our home, and the other is available for short- or long-term rental.
What have been some of the challenges along the way?
Many and numerous. Being a category A Heritage building meant that Council requirements were challenging both for obtaining resource consent as well as building consent. Fire issues in a mixed use building are hugely challenging and I’d recommend using professional consultants to guide you through, over all though we’re delighted with the end result.
Who are some of your new tenants and what can we look forward to?
We have recently welcomed So French Home and So French Café to the building. So French Home has a wide range of home and body fragrances, hats and bags, planting urns - all designed and/or made in France.So French Café is open from 7am – 2pm daily. The baristas make excellent coffee, and you can’t beat one of their crepes (lemon and sugar is my particular favourite). They also sell freshly made patisseries and sandwiches. One of the best kept secrets is that their baguettes are authentic French made, par baked, snap frozen and then jetted to Devonport.Other tenants are Main St barbers, for the best hair cut in town, Makoto Japanese restaurant, Honey beauty bar, Clean Green Computers and Devonport Law for all your legal matters.In the near future we look forward to welcoming So French Bistro. The Bistro will be serving lunch and dinner 6-days a week, with specials on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. I’ve seen the sample menu and it looks amazing – French style food, with a Kiwi twist, and good French wine to go along with it. This is going to be a real winner and will certainly enhance Devonport’s restaurant scene. We look forward to having Kate McCollum and her dedicated team in one of our smaller spaces. They will be creating and selling cards, candles and art, all lovingly hand crafted by differently abled young people. Also in the pipeline is a shared office space, providing a professional working environment for sole traders or small teams. They will receive all the benefits of a larger office (meeting space, kitchen, printer etc) but without the same financial outlay. All for just $85 per week – what a bargin!