From under the canopies
The Canopies in Porirua’s CBD have provided a distinctive white ceiling for shoppers and business owners for 20 years.
Porirua City Council installed the Canopies in 1994 with the aim of rejuvenating the city, but over the past few years there has increasingly been a feeling that they are past their use-by date.
The covered shopping area is the main focus for the council’s city centre revitalisation project, with Australian designer David Engwich overseeing plans to transform the area.
Florist Kamini Soma owns one of the most recent businesses to set up under the Canopies, Flower Workshop Florist, which she opened on her birthday last August.
Soma had been in the flower business for 11 years, but decided to branch out on her own after some careful planning and organisation.
Although she had spent some time working in Wellington after taking a floristry course at Whitireia, she decided to open her first business in the city she had close ties with.
‘‘I have strong family connections with Porirua, and I know people around the area,’’ she said.
Part of her decision was because of her experience of working in the area, but she said there was also a need for a florist in the city centre.
Soma said business had been good, and she had recently expanded her shop floor.
‘‘I started with only a small part of the shop, but I’ve moved it back and made it bigger as business has picked up,’’ she said.
‘‘ It can be a slow start in the mornings, but you never know what the day can bring . . . sometimes it can get really busy.’’
She said she’d like to set an example for other businesses to come to Porirua, and thought people would be more encouraged to come to the area if there was a greater variety of shops.
She had no hesitation in naming her favourite part of working under the Canopies.
‘‘I really like the people you meet here . . . everyone is different.’’
Suresh Masters, the owner of Jaylons Cake and Coffee House, has kept his business next to the Canopies for about 26 years.
‘‘ In those days there was no K-Mart and no Mega Centre. All the big shops, like Noel Leeming . . . they were all here,’’ he said.
Masters said he believed the arrival of the Mega Centre in 1999 had brought the most change to the Canopies area. ‘‘It spread everything out across the city, and made the area here a bit tougher. The foot traffic has gone down.’’ Masters had a positive view of the Canopies, particularly because they ‘‘keep everything under one roof, and provide shelter from the rain.’’
He liked the idea of revitalising the area and creating something new out of the Canopies area, though he was unsure as to how council could go about it. ‘‘You need something to draw people in, but I’m not sure what that is,’’ he said.
‘‘There should be more businesses here . . . that would create more of an atmosphere, and then more businesses and better shops would soon follow.’’
Jayshree Masters, left, her husband Suresh Masters, and his sister Laxmi Tailor.
Flower power: Kamini Soma, who has set up a florist under the Canopies.