Friday, May 15, 2009

Huapai's Pink Spot

Map image via Zenbu.

A Slice of Huapai history is licked.

The old Pink Spot Dairy building, famous for its icecreams, milkshakes and lollies, will be demolished soon to make way for a carpark.

But its name lives on in a new and larger building on the same Main Rd site where the Bhagalia family will continue to run it after 16 years.

Built just after World War Two, different nor-west families have operated it since its humble beginnings as the first post office and one of the first stores in Huapai.

Graham Andrew recalls growing up working in the store with his three siblings after his mother Jean and her husband Frank Rumble bought it from original owner Mrs Savage.

They ran it from 1950 to 1965.

"It’s been an icon in the district for quite a while," says Mr Andrew, who lived in Huapai for 50 years and has strong ties to community groups such as the Kumeu Agricultural and Horticultural Society and Huapai-Kumeu Lions.

He says their family developed it into a grocery and milk bar.

"In those days we had great milkshakes with the milk straight from the cow since the farm was across the road."

Mr Andrew says "a government man" used to watch the store to ensure they upheld the law prohibiting trade on Saturdays and Sundays.

"It was quite funny."

The family built a house behind the store but there was no room for a garage so Graham and his brother built a shed as a "school project".

Red tape didn’t allow the front of the store to be refurbished because it was too close to the road.

Getting to know locals was easy with people catching up at the store and romances blossoming.

Graham met his wife Sharon because her father owned the nearby Huapai Hotel.

So did Kumeu resident Dale Wallace (nee Haven) who as a teenager worked in the dairy where her husband Allan asked her out for the first time 43 years ago.

Icecream and lollies were her favourite part of the job.

"It was like a little rural township. We knew everybody," says Mrs Wallace, whose family came from Helensville and who is instrumental in running the annual Rotary Kumeu Christmas parade.

The store was named The Pink Spot by former bubbly owner Colleen Matuschka, now Colleen McKay, who painted the place in that colour.

"There was a red phonebox in front that clashed with my dairy so I painted it and decorated it with pink spotted curtains, a fluffy seat and pink roses. All the tourists would use it."

That earned her a stand against Telecom and a stint on radio about the phonebox."It was neat fun. I also started a cafe in there with pink curtains and tablecloths and white seats. There was a large pink spot on the building with our name on it," says Mrs McKay.

The Bhagalias look forward to seeing their regular customers in the new and improved store.

Brothers Kirit and Dilip Bhagalia and Kirit’s wife Sangita and their three children Dharti, Nikisha and Nikesh say they’ve always felt safe and enjoyed the friendly, helpful attitude of customers since owning the business from 1982.

"We’ve met a lot of older people who said they used to come when they were children to get icecreams, ice blocks and lollies. They say they used to live in the area or work in the shop," says Kirit.

I remember that shop, passed by it a ton of times while going to and from Helensville on the bus. It was one of the SH16 landmarks, in my opinion. I know times do have to change, but it is a bit sad when the changes happen. Still, at least they say the name will stick around.

I don't think Huapai will be short of icons just yet, however. Each Jandal Festival, the Prime Minister's electorate office in Huapai took part by sporting a pair of jandals on the roof. So, there'll still be stuff to turn heads up there.


  1. In Castlemaine there is (or was) a milk bar called Arthur's Seat which is a million miles from the actual Arthur's Seat on the coast of Victoria but got it's name from a former owners' missus getting the old wooden kitchen chair her hubby, Arthur, would park himself in all day every day and stuck it on the verandah roof out the front where every man and his dog could see it.

    It's a shame the Pink Spot Dairy is going because os car parking space, but at least it will still be there in some shape or form.

  2. Hi Lisa,

    For just a fleeting moment, I thought I'd landed on a site about Hawaii!

    The name "Huapai" conjured up images of white sandy beaches and Hula girls! *S*

    I, too, miss the days of being able to go to a drugstore (yep, "drugstore" here in Georgia, USA) and sitting at the dairy bar and ordering up a root beer float or any one of many , many flavors of milk shakes.

    I also miss dirt roads, and how they used to be sprayed with burnt motor oil to keep the dust down.

    Yes, progress and change are not always necessarily "a good thing" and with the days of losing the ozone layer looming ever nearer, it seems like we may be *forced* to return to those "days of yesteryear".

    Thanks for that very fine story, Lisa!