Ter­race End’s ‘Mr Uni­form’ calls time

The Tribune (NZ) - - CONVERSATIONS - RICHARD MAYS

When Barry Gille­spie took over a small manch­ester shop in Main St 55 years ago, the Main Trunk Line still ran down the mid­dle of the road.

‘‘There were prob­a­bly three trains a day, and we had to shut the door when they went past.‘‘

Gille­spie, now 82, has sold his iconic Ter­race End shop, Gille­spies Value House – well­known to gen­er­a­tions of Palmer­ston North school­child­ren and their par­ents. Gille­spies was the town’s school uni­form centre, and uni­forms were a sta­ple that kept cus­tomers com­ing back year after year.

Many of the chil­dren he fit­ted out over the decades now re­turn as cus­tomers with chil­dren of their own.

In 1961, he re­mem­bered walk­ing into the store to sell some­thing, and ended up buy­ing it.

‘‘I was a com­mer­cial trav­eller for AM Sat­terth­waite. I came in here with a bag of manch­ester, and an old fella like me was sit­ting here be­hind this counter and told me he didn’t want to buy any­thing be­cause he was sell­ing up.’’

Gille­spie had only re­cently moved to Palmer­ston North from Christchurch to marry his sweet­heart, El­iz­a­beth. The cou­ple had met dur­ing a Manawatu har­ri­ers meet. With El­iz­a­beth’s bless­ing, he bought the shop, and has been there ever since.

Even­tu­ally, Gille­spie bought the whole build­ing.

For the past 36 years his loyal shop lieu­tenant has been Rae Har­ris.

Even after all this time, Har­ris still calls her boss ‘‘Mr Gille­spie’’.

So, how did they put up with each other un­der the same shop roof for all those years?

‘‘I’m one of those peo­ple who when I de­cide on some­thing, I stick with it,’’ she said.

‘‘Well, I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to my re­tire­ment,’’ Gille­spie chuck­led.

Har­ris would be stay­ing on un­til March next year to help new own­ers Sally and Quentin Poole, of Ter­race End’s Academy Ap­parel, come up to speed with the busi­ness.

‘‘We make school uni­forms and Gille­spies sells school uni­forms. It was a good fit,’’ Sally Poole said.

She and her hus­band may make changes, but want to get a feel for the busi­ness first, and come to terms with their first school uni­form sea­son. For the time be­ing, there will still be a Gille­spies Value House.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/FAIRFAX NZ

Barry Gille­spie re­flects on 55 years be­hind the counter of Gille­spies Value House.

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