In the 35 years the Paardekooper family has owned a stationery store in Cromwell, the town has undergone many changes and is set to experience many more.
Cromwell News Agency director Gai Paardekooper and her late husband, Michael, bought the Nationwide Stationers store in 1987, shortly after the Cromwell Mall was built. Nationwide Stationers became Paper Plus shortly after, a co›operative that operates as a franchise, Mrs Paardekooper said.
In the three and a-half decades since, the shop has moved four times within the mall, led the way as one of New Zealand’s first post office franchises, and brought world-renowned writers to the Central Otago town.
Mrs Paardekooper said her late husband sat on the community board and district council and was a driving force behind upgrading the Cromwell hockey turf to international level. The hockey pavilion is named after Mr Paardekooper.
Construction of the Clyde Dam began in 1982 so when the couple bought the business, Cromwell was very much a Ministry of Works town.
‘‘They were all based here and earning big dollars,’’ Mrs Paardekooper said.
The dam started generating power in 1993 and the couple watched as Cromwell’s character changed again as the workers departed.
‘‘It was interesting watching the transition from a ministry town back to a community.’’
They had learned to add services — ‘‘any opportunity there was to add value to the town, we were all for it’’.
In addition to holding the New Zealand Post franchise, the store has the New Zealand Lotteries franchise and was a KiwiBank agent until 2019.
They ran a lot of book events pre-Covid, hosting international authors including Ken Follett and Jeffrey Archer.
‘‘That was part of giving back to the community by bringing big names to a small town,’’ Mrs Paardekooper said.
‘‘We felt very privileged to have a business in a town like this. You make sure you become part of the community by giving back to the community.’’
She said that since Michael died in 2018, running the business had not been the same so she had handed the reins over to their children.
Daughter Amy manages Paper Plus Cromwell, son Sam manages Paper Plus Queenstown Airport and there is a manager in Paper Plus Alexandra, which the family also owns.
Mrs Paardekooper said her children had been brought up in the business.
‘‘We are here to stay’’ Ms Paardekooper said.