Knick ’Naki

In­dus­trial light­ing, fit­tings sal­vaged from old ships and an­tique Euro­pean fur­nish­ings fill Steve Erick­son’s unique Taranaki store


Step in­side Steve Erick­son’s unique vin­tage store in Taranaki

In a former gal­vanis­ing plant a cou­ple of streets back from the beach in New Ply­mouth, you’ll find the eclec­tic Vin­tage In­dus­tries. I hes­i­tate to use the word ‘eclec­tic’, be­cause its overuse has deemed it al­most mean­ing­less. But if

I can’t use it to de­scribe Steve Erick­son’s cof­fee shop-cum-vin­tage-store packed with ma­rine com­po­nen­try, her­itage light­ing, taxi­dermy and an­tique fur­ni­ture, when can I?

“It’s a f***ing bizarre busi­ness, but it works,” says Steve. “It’s ev­ery­thing that I like and I’m just lucky other peo­ple like it.”

What be­gan as an on­line light­ing busi­ness has be­come a store filled with ma­rine lights and fit­tings, vin­tage fur­ni­ture and decor, and a range of taxi­der­mied an­i­mals, with a cafe along­side.

“It’s just evolved,” he says of the many as­pects which make up his busi­ness. “I haven’t slept in four years.”

It all started when Steve, a joiner by trade, de­cided to im­port some enamel light­shades made by a fam­ily busi­ness in China. They ap­pealed to his love of his­tory but, re­gret­tably, he “got his arse kicked in that mar­ket”. He switched to im­port­ing light fit­tings from a busi­ness in Birm­ing­ham in the UK (S. Lil­ley & Son, which has been pro­duc­ing com­po­nen­try, ini­tially for the rail in­dus­try, for al­most 180 years). A re­cent ad­di­tion to the store is Jieldé light­ing, a French brand founded in 1950. “Ev­ery­thing we bring in has gotta have a bit of his­tory or guts be­hind it,” Steve says. “A story, I guess.”

He has a pas­sion for ma­rine fit­tings and, in an un­usual ar­range­ment, gets his sup­ply of lights and other ac­ces­sories di­rect from the ship-break­ing yards of

“It’s a f***ing bizarre busi­ness, but it works. It’s ev­ery­thing that I like and I’m just lucky other peo­ple like it”

Tur­key, Bangladesh and In­dia. This came about af­ter he got ripped off on a light­ing or­der from the US and de­cided to find his own con­tact in the in­dus­try. “I ended up trawl­ing through emails and saw a phone num­ber for a guy that was my di­rect lead into the ship-break­ing yards – not easy for a westerner.”

If you haven’t seen pho­tos of these yards, it’s back­break­ing work. In the sear­ing heat, men with lit­tle safety equip­ment strip all the ma­te­ri­als and parts from ships that have reached the end of their lives.

“They call it the most vi­cious job in the world,” says Steve. There are “a lot of pros and cons in ship break­ing. You’ve got the re­cy­cling side of it but also some ‘slave-labour’-like con­di­tions. But till you’ve been there and seen how bro­ken Bangladesh ac­tu­ally is – these guys ac­tu­ally have a chance to have quar­ter of a de­cent life by bring­ing in a bit of in­come.”

Steve works with three men who source parts and bro­ker deals for him (“I’d get killed if I went in by my­self”) and makes sure they are well looked af­ter and treated eth­i­cally. These days, he does a lot of his sourc­ing via email as they know what he likes.

With lots of com­mer­cial clients, Steve de­cided to bring in vin­tage fur­ni­ture to com­ple­ment the light­ing busi­ness. He favours un­usual pieces, such as tres­tle ta­bles once used at Ok­to­ber­fest, French farm­house

win­dows and Bel­gian med­i­cal trol­leys – in­dus­trial items that will add an edge to home and com­mer­cial fitouts. He reg­u­larly trav­els to Europe to source pieces from Rus­sia, Poland, Ger­many, the Nether­lands, France,

Czech Re­pub­lic, Eng­land and Ire­land.

“Com­ing from a join­ery back­ground, I’ve got a bit of a love af­fair with old ta­bles and pieces,” he says. “I’ve always had a thing for stuff with his­tory, ever since I was young. It’s a sick­ness!”

En­ter taxi­dermy – an­other of Steve’s many in­ter­ests, which goes hand in hand with his love of hunt­ing. “It’s all new, done by a fourth-gen­er­a­tion taxi­der­mist in New Zealand. It’s the best you can get,” he says of the stuffed rab­bits, stag’s heads and more dis­played in his store.

He’s also a self-con­fessed cof­fee fiend and, hav­ing done a num­ber of fitouts for the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, de­cided to include a cafe in his space. “These days you’ve gotta cre­ate some­thing spe­cial to sur­vive,” he says of be­ing in re­tail. “It’s gotta be an ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Steve also stocks the cloth­ing brand Just An­other Fish­er­man. “I was brought up in the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment. It’s very much in my fam­ily,” he says.

(His dad was a com­mer­cial fish­er­man and owns the lo­cal dive shop, and Steve has always surfed and spearfished.) “That’s why I live in New Ply­mouth.”

Work­ing along­side Steve is his wife, Tracey, who deals with the accounts and man­age­ment side of the busi­ness. Six oth­ers staff the shop, cafe and an on­site work­shop where pieces are re­stored and lights as­sem­bled.

About 95 per­cent of his stock leaves New Ply­mouth, most of it des­tined for com­mer­cial fitouts, and much of it is pur­chased on­line. “We started as a net-based busi­ness and that’s always been our dom­i­nant mar­ket,” Steve says. Yet he’s also man­aged to cre­ate a one-off shop­ping des­ti­na­tion that’s worth go­ing off­line for.

From the source Steve stocks vin­tage ma­rine fit­tings, fur­ni­ture and decor from around the world in his New Ply­mouth store, Vin­tage In­dus­tries. He trav­els to In­dia, Bangladesh, Rus­sia, the Nether­lands and be­yond to find unique pieces that re­flect his var­i­ous pas­sions – ma­rine para­pher­na­lia, vin­tage join­ery, taxi­dermy, and any­thing with “a bit of his­tory or guts be­hind it”.

Fam­ily busi­ness Steve, Tracey and son Fox (above right) outside their vin­tage store and cafe housed in a former gal­vanis­ing plant. All his an­tique fur­ni­ture and light­ing is re­stored in-house be­fore be­ing sold, and her­itage lights made in Birm­ing­ham, in the UK, are also as­sem­bled on site.

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