Robyn Edie / Stuff
The historic The Store at Center Bush was emptied after it was hit by a truck last week. Owner Mike Sheppard, who is a vet by day, says he will have to get through calving season before he can step back and make a decision on the future of the business.
Hundreds of hours of work crumbled for Mike Sheppard, after a truck smashed through his Center Bush storefront, destroying a category two historic site in the process.
The Southland businessman says he’s not sure he has the energy to rebuild his general store and takeaway after a small truck ripped through the facade of a century-old building the last week.
Sheppard has run The Store at Center Bush, near Winton, for around five years – but the damage from the crash is so extensive it has had to close indefinitely and let its five staff go.
“It’s frustrating. We’re going to have to think very carefully about what we’re going to do,” he said.
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The accident happened last Wednesday after a car turned around on a “rather wet” evening, causing a medium-sized truck – traveling at around 70 km/h – to swerve towards the showcase, Sheppard said.
A police spokesman said one person was taken to Southland Hospital with moderate injuries.
No arrests have been made in connection with the incident, a spokesperson said.
The duty manager “was not far from the gate when the truck arrived,” Sheppard said.
“It hit fast and it hit hard. It was the right angle at the right time. Half of the posts that hold the veranda are gone.
It’s a blow to Sheppard, who was close to selling The Store as a sustainable business – the only one of its kind in the rural community.
He had bought the building in 2010 to use as a branch for his dairy vet practice, but when he closed the branch to bring staff back to Invercargill, he thought, “I own the building, as much do something. ”
Originally built in 1920, the structure was best known as the Stewart General Store.
It has served many purposes over the years, including as a training center for migrant dairy workers.
Sheppard said he wanted to “make it work as something for the community”, so aside from the grocery store, he invested in a new kitchen to provide food for local residents and travelers passing through SH6.
The business grew steadily until the Covid-19 pandemic brought tourists to a halt, he said, but residents supported The Store by ordering groceries from them during the closures.
And they had provided huge support since Sheppard announced the closure on Facebook, joking that the store had become “a drive-thru,” he said.
He thought the building was salvageable, but didn’t know if he had the money or the energy to do it himself.
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga spokeswoman Adrienne Hannan said the southern team would contact Sheppard to offer advice in what must be a “devastating time”.