It has survived World Wars 1 and 2, the Great Depression and witnessed the beginning — and closure — of railway in the Maniototo.

Twice the community has stepped in to save it, rallying cries ringing through the Ida Valley as people dug deep to rescue their beloved general store.

Such is the tale of Gilchrist’s Store.

For nearly 125 years, the store has been a cornerstone in Oturehua — and the wider Maniototo — and is believed to be New Zealand’s longest operating general store.

Now the store has been immortalised in a new book detailing its history, written by author Paula Wagemaker, local historian Judy Beck and Gilchrist Store business owner John Hellier.

Thomas Gilchrist and Sons Limited of the Maniototo looks not only at the store and its ups and downs — at its peak the business included groceries and haberdashery, bakery, farm store supplies, accommodation and fuel pumps and employed 12 people — but also the wider social fabric of the communities and people that called the Maniototo home.

The book on the historic general store, Thomas Gilchrist and Sons Limited of the Maniototo, will be launched in Oturehua next month. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON

‘‘What we were trying to do was not only trace the history and the story of the families and the story of the community, but also to give a sense of the social history of a general store,’’ Ms Wagemaker said.

As well as servicing the surrounding community, the store is a popular stop for cyclists on the Otago Central Rail Trail, with customers regularly asking about its history and the memorabilia on display.

After years of answering continuous questions a book on the store was suggested.

‘‘I suppose there is a story in all of us — it felt like a good idea,’’ Mr Hellier said.

Originally a small project was envisioned, but the group soon realised there was so much to tell.

‘‘Traditionally this store was built on the back of those that saved it . . . book tells the story of the saving of it twice,’’ he said.

The result is 328 pages of history, a story of defying the odds and the importance of community.

The book is set to be launched at the Oturehua Hall on September 3, with a community celebration, and will also be available at Gilchrist’s Store.

– To register for the book launch email [email protected] or [email protected]