By Pauline Stewart
It’s a new venue for Thinkwater and for Stihl. It’s spacious and inviting and you can see the products and equipment displayed colourfully and spaciously. For Stihl, the products are more easily displayed as in mowers and chainsaws. For Think Water, there are lots of hoses, filters, pumps, and small parts that are significant for larger pieces of machinery. But it is all there - everything that water needs, to be clean and to flow and everything needed to service swimming pools. The Think Water and Stihl premises is very easy to see on Joan Gaskell Drive, Whitianga, in the same stretch as the new Medical Centre which is soon to open.
“The rapid growth in the business led us to move to this venue,” says Cheryl Clarke, Managing Director of the group along with her husband, Philip. Cheryl and Philip are the owners of the Whitianga Thinkwater and STIHL shop as well as the sister shops in Whangamata and in Cambridge. When we first set up in Blacksmith Lane in Whitianga township, we were going to be mainly a retail outlet. But we could see customers needed more. They did not have the knowledge to install or repair or change filters and each of their problems was quite specific. We realised that we needed to quickly change to much more than retail. To become a service and on-call centre became a priority. Servicing equipment is a very big aspect of our business, and we fix and service machinery that is not just from our brand as well. A very useful service that we also offer is the range of loan pumps that people can use.”
It was clear to see that people don’t come to the store with a little shopping trolley. This is for machine and equipment. Shoppers are farmers, tradesmen and tradeswomen, pool owners and those maintaining irrigation systems. All of them are on a mission. “When they come in here, it is with a purpose in mind, and they are focussed on what it is they intend to buy. So often the customer has many queries about their current equipment and how to solve difficulties they might be having.
A little history: Phillip Clarke is much more than the business owner. His skills and long experience with water and pumps is such a bonus for the whole business and the community. He was recently invited to the United States to see the latest developments in water treatment equipment. This is not Philip’s first time that he has been invited overseas to represent the company in learning the latest techniques and equipment. Phillip is largely self-taught. He left school when he turned 15 and worked installing and repairing water pumps on farm properties and homes. He learned the trade by rolling up his sleeves out in the field. With lots of experience and a natural aptitude, Phillip soon became recognised as somewhat of a water “guru”. After nearly 10 years working for a company, Phillip decided he wanted his own water industry business. At 24 he set off to start from scratch. Like many start-up kiwi businesses, to begin with, Phillip and Cheryl operated out of their garage at home. Raising a young family and juggling the demands of a fast-growing business, soon meant it was time to put the car back in the garage and move on to bigger things.
“Customers were turning up at home all hours of the day and night knowing someone
would always be around to help,” said Cheryl.
A good team: So in 2007, workshop and retail premises were leased and sales and technical staff employed. The retail shops, to this day, sell pumps, filters, irrigation pipe, pool and spa chemicals and more. Back then, Cheryl looked after office administration, purchasing in the retail shop and caring for their children while Phillip looked after everything technical.
Their success led to an invitation from the leading edge Think Water group to establish Think
Water franchises in the Coromandel and Cambridge districts. The Think Water Group began
life as a group of independent Australian businesses that formed a buying group that now
has 18 franchise operations throughout New Zealand.
Joining Think Water enabled Phillip and Cheryl to not only have the advantage of the buying
power of such a large group, but access to a huge knowledge base to add to their own
knowledge and experience of many years. Phillip is highly regarded and sought after in this whole water industry and today, the company is providing water storage and delivery solutions to homes, orchards, farms and businesses throughout the Coromandel Peninsula. “Whether you need help with your under-bench water filter, need a tank cleaned or need a large-scale commercial
irrigation system designed and installed – Phillip and his team are the local experts.
Whitianga is the centrally located Thinkwater and Stihl shop for the Coromandel Peninsula with other stores located in Whangamata and Thames.