One of the most enjoyable things about being a retailer on Stafford Street Timaru (Camerons Menswear have been here since 1924) is the people we get to meet. Not only the out of towners who tell us how much they enjoy coming to Timaru to shop with our unique mix of independent retailers and women’s fashion stores, but the ex timaruvians’ who come in to reminisce and share their memories.
From the man whose family home was on various levels of the green grocers in the building next door, where his mum created tantalising smells of Chinese cooking that drifted through the walls to torment hungry staff working on the shop floor until 9pm on a Friday night, to the young woman who brought her daughter in to show her where she grew up above her mums’ fashion boutique - where our offices are now. She was thrilled to see little pieces remained – the stippled walls and fake grass carpet, the room that was her bedroom – now used for the storage, and the window she used to sneak out of to go adventuring across the roof tops.
Many people who now live overseas have come in over the years and remarked “oh I remember buying jeans from the denim dept downstairs in the basement”. Yes, that’s right we say, its only used for storage now, but you are welcome to go and have a look. Back in the early 80’s It was the coolest little jeans shop in town, stocking the legendary NZ brand – Amco, along with Levi’s, Wranglers, Skin Jeans, Ultimo, Fido Dido, Poco Loco and not forgetting The Adidas stirrup track pant!
We’ve had a few celebrities pay us a visit over the years too –
Matt Damon after filming a movie in NZ, Richard Hadlee needing a new jersey to wear on TV that night, Crusaders Todd Blackadder, Daryl Gibson & Mark Mayerhofler instore for a signing session, and well-known locals – Tom Walsh and the Dance Exponents.
When Australian cricketer and highly regarded commentator Richie Benaud died, TVNZ 1 news filmed a segment in the entrance to our menswear dept in Timaru. This being the site of a Chemist store in the 1950’s that sold Richie a lotion to help repair his bowling hand.
Of course, back in the 1970’s and 80’s there were many large employers in “town”. 100’s of staff at The Timaru Herald and the Telephone exchange just through the Royal Arcade, not to mention the Post Office, the banks and radio stations. I have it on good authority that the lads from the Herald used to walk through the back alleys to buy their jeans at Camerons, or if it was in work hours – sneak down the fire escape and be back before they were noticed missing.
Another favourite pastime was sitting on the windowsill at lunch time in Sophia Street cheering on the teenagers - who knew where to find an audience, showing off their cars or motorbikes. If that wasn’t your thing, you could wander down the Royal Arcade to Beggs Music store – Where our evolv fashion and streetwear store is today – to listen to free live music on a Friday, courtesy of Tahu Russell and his band.
And so yes, times have changed, Saturday shopping took over from Friday nights - when the street was so busy that the cops would move us along if we loitered on the footpath to talk. The big tearooms that we were taken to as kids for afternoon tea - truly wonderous places filled with delicious treats, have been replaced by cafes, and although in these times of pandemics and lockdowns “downtown” sits empty, the sense of community and the character of Stafford Street remains and will always spring back into life.