Every Saturday from early October to April, the Whiti Citi Markets are a feature of shopping on a Saturday. Soldiers Memorial Park is generally full of stalls and shoppers – the variety is amazing and the ambience is of a lively and healthy community.
There’s a story behind the Whiti Citi Markets. It’s been a journey of twenty years to the present day and the person largely responsible, now retired, is Doreen Davies. The current owners of the Whiti Citi Markets, Ronnie James and John Taylor who call themselves the James Taylor Events, sing Doreen’s praises. The markets are going very well except when heavy rain and very wet conditions underfoot cancel them.
Doreen Davies and Anne Jones got together and started it all. The Whiti Citi Markets that is. “We were a pair of potters wanting to find a way to retail. That led to starting a market so that we would be with others who wanted to retail.” says Doreen.
She went to the local Council and told them of her plan. The work load that resulted was not too bad; - she had to find a $300 bond, and for starters, was only allowed to have 10 stalls. She would need to pay the Council $2 for each stall, which soon increased to $10 a stall and after a year, that became $25 a stall. “I had to learn quickly, that though I was running a market, they were running a business.”
In the beginning, Doreen was trying to enable craft people to establish themselves. “I was a potter but could see that there were quite a few crafts people with produce, that could sell well. In the beginning, it was very hard for them to get enough money in to get the next lot of materials for the next market. I could see their predicament, but we were committed to locally produced and locally made.
Early Days There were all kinds of issues to consider. Some craft stall operators did not want to be beside certain stall holders due to their having similar products or it was too close in terms of competition.
I had to sharpen up to a point. Something wise I learned along the way was ‘If you don’t ask the question, you wont get the wrong answer.’
“We were all learning together. Even helping put up a gazebo was a big deal. I’d go to each marketer if they were regulars and see if they wanted their regular spot. Sometimes, stall holders wanted to change their spot to see if it would make a difference to sales. It took a long time to have food carts as each food cart required special permission. The Masonic Lodge were able to have a sausage sizzle and because it was a charity we were allowed to sell the sausages. So it was in that area that we started with food but health and Safety is a huge area and necessary but not for the faint hearted. We didn’t get eftpos in the early days and we would ask people to go across the road and withdraw cash. Then there was the matter of Public liability Insurance and that was quite a process considering the vulnerable nature of the markets with weather and some stall holders were not able to comply with the requirements to enable us to get insurance.
At first, the Business Association was frightened of us. Some shops were of the opinion, ‘the markets will pinch our trade.’ It took a while for people to come around, but finally with a change of circumstances and time, the markets grew and became a part of what Whitianga offered. What gave us a boost was music. Dave Kennedy came up from the South Island to be a busker. Dave was easy listening and he fitted in with everyone.”
Covid challenged all Doreen and all the marketers because they simply could not continue for a time. Then there was the restriction on the numbers of stalls and people who could actually commit to being there at the markets.
As the Markets grew, I grew. My last weekend of the Whiti markets was Anniversary weekend at the end of January 2022 - there were 50 stalls.
Thinking and looking back:-
-The marketers were great.
-A lot of the things I have done, I did at the right time, when my body was able to cope with the physical side of setting up the markets.
-I had a great number of acquaintances because of the markets but close friends were hard to make.
-It was a lifestyle but now it’s over and I enjoy not having the responsibility.
-I believe the emphasis should always be on locally made and/or New Zealand produced.
-The holiday makers look for the markets.
-Angst and determination made me keep going especially in the early stages of Whiti markets.
Doreen Davies was key in setting up Whitianga Markets (now known as Whiti Citi Markets), over 20 years ago. She retired from the role earlier this year.