Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings (Former)

129 Church Street And Kelly Street And Potts Avenue, Opotiki

  • Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 19/11/2002.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 19/11/2002.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 19/11/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 807 Date Entered 30th June 2006


Extent of List Entry

Registration confirmed BD2006/06/12 on 30 Jun 2006. The registration includes all of the land in CTs GS1D/1038 and GS1A/1099 (as shown in Map B in the registration report), and the buildings, their fittings and fixtures thereon. It also includes the chattels listed in Appendix 6 of the registration report.

The registration incorporates four conjoined shops fronting Church Street, two attached storage buildings to the west on Kelly Street, an attached warehouse extending to Potts Avenue, and an open yard containing other ancillary structures.

City/District Council

Opotiki District


Bay of Plenty Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 5308 and Pt Allot 4 Sec 1 Town of Opotiki (CTs GS1D/1038 & GS1A/1099), Gisborne Land District


The former Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings are reminders of the multicultural background of Opotiki's business community, and the town's prosperity as a regional port in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Consisting of several interconnected buildings dating to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the timber shops are closely linked with the drapery and general provision business run by the Shalfoon Brothers, and their successors Shalfoon and Francis. The business' founding partners, George Shalfoon (?-1943) and his cousin Stephen (1874?-1942), originally hailed from the Lebanon and arrived in Opotiki in the late 1890s. Large numbers of migrants left the Lebanon in the nineteenth century as a result of economic hardship, mostly to the Americas and Africa. The cousins' choice of New Zealand was comparatively unusual, with the community being officially referred to as 'Syrian' in this country until at least 1926.

Seeing opportunities in the remote areas between Cape Runaway and Matata, the cousins initially hawked clothing from packhorses among mainly Maori communities, with whom George is said to have had a strong affinity. They established a depot in Opotiki at the northern end of the current row of shops, which was located close to the wharf on Kelly Street. The cousins soon converted part of their property - a timber store possibly erected as early as 1880 - into a draper's shop, selling goods brought in by boat, possibly via George's cousin Charles (1871-1946) in Auckland. Trading as 'Shalfoon Brothers' from at least 1903-1904, the business rapidly expanded into a general store, selling imported ironmongery, crockery and groceries, as well as clothing and footwear.

The earliest shop consisted of a single-storey hipped roof building, with a rear chimney. Its frontage incorporated a wide verandah and large plate glass windows, for the effective public display and browsing of goods. In 1906, the shop was extended as the firm diversified, mirroring on a small scale the development of traditional urban drapers into department stores at the turn of the century. By 1915 the complex consisted of four shops selling different ranges of products, each with their own entrance but linked by an interconnecting passage. Warehousing and offices were also incorporated to the rear. One of the offices was surmounted by a koruru-type carving with two tongues, believed to symbolise George Shalfoon's supplementary employment as a translator. Many of the shop's early customers were Maori, including the Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana (1868/1869?-1937), who stopped outside the shop on his renowned ride to Gisborne in 1906, where he believed he would meet the British King, Edward VII. George Shalfoon is said to have been present as a translator at Rua's infamous capture by the police in 1916, which was the bloodiest conflict between police and a Maori community in twentieth century history.

Imaginative steps were taken to attract custom during and after the First World War (1914-1918). From about 1915, customers were brought in from the East Cape aboard the firm's own vessels, having been provided free passage on condition that they purchased goods at the store. The cousins also constructed the De Luxe Theatre in the 1920s immediately next door (see De Luxe Theatre, Opotiki, NZHPT Registration # 3498, Category II historic place). Later modifications may have included a growing emphasis on the visual importance of the southern end of the store, next to the theatre. George's son, Epi Shalfoon (1904-1953), worked in the shop before becoming a well-known band leader. Renamed Shalfoon and Francis in about 1937, the business' changing clientele included dairy farmers and, later, kiwifruit growers. The shops operated commercially until 2000, after which the property was acquired by the Opotiki Heritage and Agricultural Society for use as a museum.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value


The former Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings are historically significant for their connections with Lebanese migration, the development of multicultural communities in provincial New Zealand and aspects of Maori-Pakeha relations. They are closely linked to changing developments in the retail business during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in relation to consumerism, production and trade. They are especially associated with the transformation of specialist draperies into general department stores.

The place is also significant for its connections with important individuals and events in New Zealand history, most notably the visionary leader Rua Kenana and his pilgrimage to Gisborne in 1906. It is associated with other individuals of importance, including the pioneering musician and band leader, Epi Shalfoon.

The place reflects the commercial importance of Opotiki as the pre-eminent main trading centre in the eastern Bay of Plenty in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its position marks the commercial heart of the town prior to the emergence of an extensive road network, and reflects Opotiki's initial reliance on maritime transport. The place is connected with numerous individuals of significance in Opotiki, including George senior and Stephen Shalfoon, and earlier shopkeepers and landowners of the site, including the Member of the House of Representatives for the area - William Kelly - who gave his name to Kelly Street.


The former Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings are significant as an unusually intact example of an early twentieth-century retail and commercial complex. They are particularly important as a vernacular expression of an international architectural type - the general department store. They are of value for demonstrating the organic development of shop buildings and their related structures in a cultural frontier environment. They reflect changing approaches to the design of retail architecture, notably during the early part of the twentieth century.


The Shop Buildings are socially significant, having acted as an informal meeting place for the inhabitants of Opotiki and surrounding communities for many decades. The place continues to have social significance as a local museum.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The place reflects important elements of New Zealand history, including the development of trade and commerce on the 'resource frontier', multicultural contact within a commercial environment, and significant aspects of Maori-Pakeha relations. The latter includes the context and background of official translators, Maori involvement in consumerism and the development of visionary movements.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The place has high significance for its associations with Rua Kenana, his pilgrimage to Gisborne in 1906 and potentially other aspects of his life, including his arrest in 1918 - the worst conflict between police and Maori communities in twentieth-century New Zealand.

It is also of value for its close connections with Epi Shalfoon, a significant musical pioneer in New Zealand history.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

The place has special potential to provide knowledge of aspects New Zealand history, most notably business activity, shopping and working conditions in the early 1900s. This is due to its well-preserved fabric, chattels and associated documentary material, which includes business ledgers, stocktakings and other papers dating back to at least the 1930s. Its potential is enhanced by the existence of historic graffiti in several parts of the building and on its some chattels.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place

There is considerable community association with the place, it having housed a popular family-run business for nearly 100 years and currently being owned and occupied as a museum.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The place has outstanding potential for public education due to its well-preserved nature and it being owned by and occupied as a museum. Its potential is considerably enhanced by the quality of its associated chattels.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The complex is significant as an extremely well-preserved example small-town department store, unusual for being constructed in the vernacular tradition. Its design value is enhanced by the retention of fixtures and fittings connected with its early and mid twentieth-century use.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The place is believed to be a rare surviving example of a small-town department store, built in the vernacular tradition. The survival of associated fixtures, fittings and chattels connected with its historic use is also unusual.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The former Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings form an important part of an outstanding nineteenth- and early twentieth-century town centre. Opotiki is the best-preserved township of this period in the Bay of Plenty. The Shop Buildings strongly reflect the position of the early commercial heart of the settlement, which has since gravitated some distance southwards.

Immediately adjacent buildings of significance include the De Luxe Theatre (NZHPT Registration # 3498, Category II historic place) and the Opotiki Hotel (NZHPT Registration # 3499, Category II historic place), while the Church of St Stephen the Martyr (NZHPT Registration # 142, Category I historic place) - also known as Hiona St Stephen - the Masonic Hotel (NZHPT Registration # 3500, Category II historic place), the War Memorial (NZHPT Registration # 3497, Category II historic place) and the Courthouse (NZHPT Registration # 3502, Category II historic place) all lie a very short distance to the south. Other registered historic places further south on Church Street include the Royal Hotel (NZHPT Registration # 3503, Category II historic place) and Rostgard's Building (NZHPT Registration # 3504, Category II historic place).

Other places of potential significance lying very close to the Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings include: i) nineteenth-century timber shops on the northern corner of Church and Kelly Street and the southern corner of Kelly and Potts Avenue, ii) an early colonial cemetery with surviving monuments circa 100 m to the east on Kelly Street, iii) the site of an early Catholic mission, also on Kelly Street, and iv) the site of an extensive Maori settlement at Pakowhai one block to the north.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early development of Opotiki

The development of Opotiki has been influenced by Maori, Pakeha and other cultures. Parts of the modern township lie on the site of a significant Maori settlement known as Pakowhai, which was located beside the Otara River at its convergence with the larger Waioeka River. In May 1840, a version of the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in, or close to the settlement by several Whakatohea leaders. During the early colonial period, Opotiki supplied produce for the emerging Pakeha markets further north, when both Catholic and Anglican protestant missionaries established stations in the immediate vicinity. Following the killing of one these missionaries - the Anglican Carl Volkner (1819-1865) - due to suspicions that he was passing on information to government authorities during Pai Marire protests of the 1860s, the settlement was taken by colonial troops in 1865. Large amounts of surrounding land in the eastern Bay of Plenty were also confiscated by the Crown.

A township was subsequently laid out in a regular grid with its administrative buildings located a short distance to the south of the earlier settlement, symbolically close to the pre-existing Anglican mission church (now known as the Church of St Stephen the Martyr/ Hiona St Stephens). By the early 1880s, the town had a courthouse, a post office, and a population of at least 800, reflecting its status as the main administrative centre for the eastern Bay of Plenty. The township was formally surveyed into military and commercial sectors, incorporating one-acre lots to the south to be granted to militiamen - mostly from the 1st Waikato Regiment - and smaller, one-rood lots to the north for commercial and other use. Wharves and depots subsequently developed in the latter part of town, linked to the import and exportation of goods by river and sea. Lying on the site of the earlier Maori settlement, the commericial sector retained its likely traditional associations with water transport, as indicated by the gazetting of a landing reserve at the Otamarau Kapa Creek, which separated two parts of the pre-existing pa. Sections in this part of town also remained in Maori hands during the later nineteenth century and beyond.

Allotments 4 and 5, Section 1

Allotments 4 and 5 of Section 1, lay in the south-western corner of the commercial township, adjacent to the administrative centre of the settlement. Fronting an arm of the Waioeka River, just south of the earlier pa, the site may have been part of a military encampment next to the Anglican mission church in the mid to late 1860s, when the church lay within a fortified redoubt. In October 1871, Allotments 4 and 5 were granted by the Crown to William Kelly (1840-1907), an early entrepreneur and Opotiki's first member of the House of Representatives, as part of a larger allocation that also included Allotments 2, 3, 6 and 48 of Section 1. Kelly's land occupied a prime area between the Waioeka River and Church Street - already the main commercial thoroughfare of Opotiki - on either side of what became known as Kelly Street.

During the late 1870s, Kelly subdivided his land, selling Allotment 5 to Henry Penny in 1875 and Allotment 4 to Charles Bockett in 1877. Both Penny and Bockett owned businesses - a brewery and flour mill respectively - on the outskirts of Opitiki. Bockett was also a solicitor, secretary of the Mechanics Institute and chairman of Whakatane County Council. While Bockett may have retained Allotment 4 for some time, Penny subdivided Allotment 5 in 1878, selling the eastern two thirds to Richard Wright, an early storekeeper and another county councillor. It is likely that buildings were erected on Allotments 4 and 5 at, or before, this time. In the 1880 street directory for Opotiki, Bockett's land fronting Wharf Street appears to have contained a flour and grain store, while Wright's property on the corner of Church and Kelly Streets (occupying the northeastern corner of the current shop complex) was evidently operating as a general store. The latter may survive within the complex currently proposed for registration.

Wright went bankrupt by 1890 when Opotiki, like the rest of New Zealand, was undergoing an economic depression. His part of Allotment 5 was subsequently bought and resold in rapid succession by: i) Robert Isaacs, storekeeper (bought 1890), ii) Eunice Bell, wife of John Bell, storekeeper (1895), iii) Elizabeth Dowling, wife of Patrick Dowling, ?carrier (1900), iv) John Arthur, painter (1902) and Edward Webb, storekeeper of Omaio (1903). References that Isaacs should insure buildings on the property to the value of £150 in 1890 may indicate that timber structures erected by Wright were still in existence, while the similar value of the property in both 1890 and 1895 could imply a lack of significant improvements or rebuilding during this period. Ongoing ownership of the property by storekeepers until 1900 also suggests that the building continued in use as a store for much of this time.

Shalfoon Brothers and their premises

Following the end of the depression of the late 1880s and 1890s, a number of migrants arrived in Opotiki to take advantage of its economic potential. Unlike other settlements further north, the town lay in close proximity to areas - notably the East Coast and Ureweras - that were still largely owned and occupied by Maori, retaining a strong frontier culture combining both Maori and Pakeha influences. One of the new arrivals was George Shalfoon (?-1943), who is believed to have migrated to Opotiki by 1899. Said to have been born in Batroun on the Lebanese coast, Shalfoon was one of several young male family members who left for Canada and New Zealand during the 1890s, including his brother Anthony, and cousins Stephen and Charles Shalfoon. Large numbers of migrants left the Lebanon in the late nineteenth century due to difficult economic conditions, with the majority going to Latin America and tropical Africa, although some also departed for North America and Australia. New Zealand was a comparatively unusual choice for Lebanese migrants, where they were officially referred to as 'Syrians' until at least 1926. Other Lebanese who came to New Zealand at a similar time included Assid Corban, who became a prominent Auckland-based winemaker.

George Shalfoon is believed to have disembarked in the mid to late 1890s, initially working in Auckland as a traveling draper. He was soon joined from the Lebanon by his cousin Stephen (1874?-1942), and the pair moved to Opotiki as the depression of the late 1880s and 1890s lifted. The cousins first hawked clothing from packhorses between Matata and Cape Runaway among mainly Maori communities, with whom George - perhaps as an outsider to British colonial culture - is said to have had a strong affinity. They later occupied the store on the corner of Church and Kelly Street, using it initially as a depot.

Immediately prior to their occupation, the shop is said to have been used as a residence, perhaps during the period from 1900 to 1902 when it was successively owned by a carrier and a painter (see above). If so, it is likely to have been re-converted to a shop by 1903, when both George and Stephen were naturalized as citizens and described as 'storekeepers' in official records. The store was also listed in directories as a drapery under the name of Shalfoon Brothers in the same year.

It is possible that seaborne supplies to the Opotiki business were initially chanelled through Stephen's brother Charles (1871-1946), who had opened a draper's shop in Auckland by 1904, having followed his brother to New Zealand four years previously. Business was evidently profitable enough for George and Stephen Shalfoon to purchase the land on which their shop was located in 1905. By this time, Opotiki's main wharf had been relocated from the end of Elliott to Kelly Street as a result of river silting, placing the building in a prime commercial location next to the main access point in and out of Opotiki.

Photographs taken before 1906 show the timber store as being of single-storey residential proportions, with a hipped corrugated iron roof, a window in its northern side and a brick chimney towards the rear. The front of the building contained a large name board with lettering advertising 'Shalfoon Bros' and had a large canopy covering the pavement, supported on large timber posts. The canopy enabled passers-by to scrutinise goods displayed the large plate-glass windows in congenial conditions, while also protecting valuable products from the sun. To the rear of the store, there was a small gabled structure, possibly an office or outhouse, orientated east-west and apparently lying within a low-fenced yard. Land immediately to the south of the store on Church Street seems to have been vacant, although that to the west fronting Wharf Street (now Potts Avenue) was occupied by another store and several gabled warehouses. Surviving details in the ceiling of Shalfoon's shop indicates that it incorporated a large space at the front for commercial use and two private rooms at the rear, possibly utilised as a bedroom and kitchen/living area, divided by a central corridor.

Although George and Stephen Shalfoon's business started with a focus on drapery, it rapidly expanded into that of a general store. Generally subject to fierce competition, draperies were at the forefront of new retail techniques, expanding their range of wares firstly into furnishings and furniture, and subsequently into more general goods. Prior to May 1906 the shop was extended, presumably as the firm diversified, mirroring on a small scale the transformation of traditional specialist drapers into department stores, a development that occurred in big urban centres such as London during the second half of the nineteenth century. The emergence of such stores has been linked to the twin processes of industrialization and urbanization, with an expanding range of cheaper goods being supplied to larger populations. Imported ironmongery, crockery and groceries were sold at Shalfoon Brothers', as well as clothing, footwear and possibly their own furniture.

Modifications included the doubling of the shop frontage through the addition of a southern extension on Church Street, and the construction of a large gabled storage area fronting Kelly Street, adjoining the western side of the shops. New signage on the front of the building advertised Shalfoon Brothers as 'General Storekeepers', while also proclaiming 'Naumai' (welcome) in te reo Maori on the side facing Kelly Street. The latter looked out towards parts of the town traditionally associated with Maori, as well as in the direction from which travelers to Opotiki would have arrived via the Kelly Street wharf. Draperies were noted for their prominent approaches to advertising and other innovations in retail sale, a tradition followed by their department store successors..

By 1915 the complex was further extended, doubling the shop frontage along Church Street yet again to a total of four bays. The complex now consisted of four shops selling different ranges of products, each with their own entrance but linked by an interconnecting passage. Large warehousing fronting Wharf Street (now Potts Avenue) was constructed, augmenting the store or workshop that had been previously built. A large firewall may have been erected around the property at the same time, enclosing a yard containing a possible cool room, and - later - a powder room for explosive materials. Expansion enabled the construction of an internal office at the back of the shops, next to the alleyway leading into the yard. These modifications are likely to have been created after 1912, when the northern part of Allotment 4 was purchased by George and Stephen Shalfoon. The additions are absent from a survey carried out in December 1913, suggesting a construction date in the following year.

Continued diversification of the business into the small town equivalent of a department store is not only reflected in the architecture of the shop buildings, but also in the expansion of Shalfoons' activities to incorporate the manufacture of timber furniture using kauri imported by boat from Kaitaia. This was sold to other shops as well as being retailed by Shalfoons. While it is unclear if their furniture-making began in 1906 or later, painted lettering spelling 'Shalfoon Bros Furniture Factory' on the back of the door of the pre-May 1906 storage building perhaps suggests the former. Other support for this date is that George's brother Anthony (1879?-1945) worked in Kaitaia prior to joining Shalfoon Brothers, evidently by early 1906. Charles Shalfoon also moved to Opotiki as the business expanded, although his shop in Auckland remained in his name until at least 1909. Both Anthony and Charles went on to found other draperies in Opotiki.

Early customers

Many of Shalfoon Brothers' customers were Maori, as indicated on the earliest surviving photographs of the store. George Shalfoon had himself married Raria (Mary) Hopa - who was descended from the six major hapu of Te Whakatohea, and notably Ngai Tamahaua - in 1904. They went on to have ten children. Patrons included the Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana (1868/1869?-1937), who is said to have made regular trips with his wives to purchase supplies from Shalfoons. Rua was a follower of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (?-1893), establishing his authority after Te Kooti's death through prophetic visions with the aim of gaining the redemption of land for Maori. Gaining numerous supporters of his own, Rua purchased goods in large quantities, presumably as part of his role as leader and provider, although it is said that he would not physically enter a shop because of his tapu. Other shopkeepers refer to him having wares taken into backyards for his inspection.

In 1906, Rua embarked on a pilgrimage with many of his supporters to Gisborne, where he prophesied that he would 'ascend the throne' and meet the king, Edward VII, thereby peacefully restoring authority to Maori. On 11 May, he passed through Opotiki with many of his followers, riding a white horse. A photograph of him on this journey shows him standing immediately outside Shalfoons' store, surrounded by a large gathering of supporters and approaching a policeman. Large cloths are draped in front of goods in the plate glass windows of the shop frontage. It is unknown if Rua stopped at Shalfoons to purchase goods on this occasion, although his followers may have expected food to have been provided during their travels.

George Shalfoon's relationship with his Maori customers was strengthened when he gained a Second Grade interpreter's licence in 1907 and a First Grade licence in 1914. This enabled him to formally translate deeds and other documents from English to te reo Maori and vice versa, prepare claims for old age pensions, and to act as an interpreter in courts of law including the Supreme Court, Magistrate's Court, Native Land Court and Native Appellate Court. A koruru-type carving with two tongues - currently held in the building - is believed to have been used to advertise his skills by being externally mounted on the Kelly Street façade, possibly on the apex of the warehouse. In 1916, Shalfoon is said to have been seconded as an interpreter to the police expedition sent into the Urewera Mountains to arrest Rua, following the latter's establishment of a City of God at Maungapohatu and the laying of charges against him for the illicit sale of alcohol. During his arrest on the marae, two of Rua's followers were killed, representing the worst clash between the police and a Maori community in twentieth-century history. Other interpreters appear to have been taken on the expedition.

George Shalfoon is also said to have been very friendly with the family of Sir Apirana Ngata (1874-1950). Ngata's father, Paratene, was an East Coast storekeeper and a Native Land Court assessor. Apirana Ngata himself was at the forefront of efforts to achieve social and economic reforms for Maori in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, becoming a Member of Parliament in 1905 and Native Minister from 1928. The exact nature of the relationship between Shalfoon and the Ngata family is unclear. However, having similar commercial and other involvements in adjacent districts, Shalfoon and Paratene Nagata may have come into contact.

Subsequent history

Imaginative steps were taken by Shalfoon Brothers to attract custom during and after the First World War (1914-1918). From about 1915, customers were brought in from the East Cape aboard the firm's own vessels - named Te Kaha and Tikirau - and were provided with free passage on the return leg on condition that they purchased goods at the store. The cousins also constructed the De Luxe Theatre (NZHPT Registration # 3498, Category II historic place) in 1926 immediately next door to their expanded store, which may have attracted additional custom both to the town and more specifically to their shops. The De Luxe subsequently formed one of the earliest cinemas in the Kerridge chain after being re-named the Regent.

Both developments may have been partly in response to the rise in motor transportation and the expansion of commercial activity in the southern part of the town, potentially drawing custom away from the shops. George and Stephen Shalfoon were active in local body politics at this time, with George being on the first borough council in 1911 and Stephen a borough councillor for many years until his death in 1943. Part of the borough's responsibilities involved maintaining the wharves, with the Kelly Street structure being upgraded in 1913. This broadly coincided with the Shalfoons' transportation venture and the expansion of their premises in 1914. It is likely that the frontage of the southernmost shop was remodeled in 1926, adopting a similar up-to-date style as the De Luxe Theatre frontage next door. Its more ornate features and larger windows, doors and display areas demonstrate an ever-increasing trend to entice customers into shops through favourable presentation, and also reflect the rising status of the southern end of the store, which lay closer to the newer commercial centre.

1926 also marked the last expansion of the shop complex, with the purchase of part of a secondary yard previously used by a neighbouring business, which was located immediately to the west on Kelly Street. A pre-existing timber building in this yard appears to have been adopted as an additional warehouse or workshop.

Apart from the first generation of Shalfoons, other family members to work in the store included George's eldest son Gareeb (Epi) Shalfoon (1904-1953), before he became a nationally renowned musician with his band the Melody Boys. The earliest filmed music promotion in New Zealand - made in 1930 - featured Epi Shalfoon and his band, with the soundtrack also being considered the earliest recording of jazz in the country. Epi was an executive member of the Auckland Musician's Union from 1939-1948, continuing to perform until his death in Auckland in 1953. In the same year that the De Luxe Theatre opened (1926), he married Yvonne Hawkins, whose family owned the Opotiki Hotel (NZHPT Registration # 3499, Category II historic place), immediately opposite the store. Epi also ran a music shop inside the De Luxe for a period.

In 1937, following the Great Depression, the Shalfoon Brothers' business was transferred to George Shalfoon junior (1916?-2002) and Edward Francis, who were respectively a nephew and nephew-in-law of the original owners. Renamed Shalfoon and Francis, the business' changing clientele included dairy farmers and, later, kiwifruit growers. The business expanded to incorporate several dairy farms between Opotiki and Waimana, while the shop sold ploughs and other agricultural goods as well as more conventional products. Partly because of its size and mixture of clientele - including customers from out of town - the shop was a popular place to gather and to exchange conversation, making it an important informal meeting place in the community. Workshops were used to repair items inside some of the warehouses, with extensive areas of timber benching created for such purposes. Chalk graffiti dating to 1936 survives in one of these areas, depicting 'Popeye the Sailor', a popular cartoon character of the time noted for his physical strength.

Shalfoon and Francis retained many fixtures and fittings in the shops installed by their predecessors, including long kauri counters and floor to ceiling timber shelves decorated with matching egg and dart decoration, said to have been created when Shalfoon Brothers established their furniture business in the early 1900s. These were rearranged and modified when fibrolite panelling was installed, possibly in the 1940s or 1950s, and affixed less systematically. Other items were retained, including a 1920s cash register, an 'in-out' board advising of George and Stephen Shalfoon's movements. Shalfoon and Francis also purchased more up-to-date items such as a Ford V8 delivery truck in 1938, which was still being used for deliveries in 1974.

With the eventual closing of their furniture factory, the drapery and furnishing departments were removed, although the store continued to stock a broad range of otherwise similar items. In 1959, the shore was divided up into a grocer's at its northern end, an ironmongery in the central two shops, and a furniture, kitchen goods and gifts department at its southern end. In the 1980s, it still held products such as sulphur, copper sulphate and red lead powder, sold in bulk or small amounts, as well as rope pulled out of holes in the kauri benches, oakum for caulking ships, horseshoes in various sizes and numerous other goods. The office created in 1914 continued to be used by George Shalfoon jnr, who kept large quantities of paperwork linked to the business, including ledgers and a stocktake dating back to February 1938, which is when he may have formally taken over the store. Personal items such as photographs, his certificate of service in the Second World War (1939-1945), and grocer's aprons were also held there. A second office may have been created in the 1930s or 1940s, and was later used by secretarial staff. This held further papers and items linked to the organisation of the business, including an early Remington typewriter, with the doorway to this office incorporating a counter for the payment of bills.

The shops operated commercially until 2000, when George Shalfoon jnr retired at the age of 84. The property and its large number of chattels were subsequently acquired by the Opotiki Heritage and Agricultural Society (OHAS) for use as a museum. The purchased chattels mostly remain in the building - those in the main office essentially undisturbed - while OHAS has brought in other material while a new museum building is being constructed. Members of the public have access to the interior during volunteer opening hours.

The building has twice been affected by flooding, once in 1918 and again in 1964.

Physical Description


The former Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings lie in the northern part of Opotiki, in the eastern Bay of Plenty. They are situated at the northern end of a long commercial strip that runs along either side of Church Street, which contains numerous nineteenth and early twentieth-century buildings including the Church of St Stephen the Martyr, also known as Hiona St Stephens (NZHPT Registration # 142, Category I historic place), the Masonic Hotel (NZHPT Registration # 3500, Category II historic place), the Courthouse (NZHPT Registration # 3502, Category II historic place), the War Memorial (NZHPT Registration # 3497, Category II historic place), the Royal Hotel (NZHPT Registration # 3503, Category II historic place) and Rostgard's Building (NZHPT Registration # 3504, Category II historic place).

Other places of potential significance lie very close to the Shop Buildings, including nineteenth-century timber shops on the northern corner of Church and Kelly Street and the southern corner of Kelly and Potts Avenue, an early colonial cemetery with surviving monuments on Kelly Street, the site of an early Catholic Mission on Kelly Street, and the site of an extensive Maori settlement at Pakowhai a short distance to the north.

The Shop Buildings occupy a flat, L-shaped piece of land, fronting Kelly Street to the north, Church Street to the east and Potts Avenue to the west. The main shop buildings front onto Church Street, immediately to the north of the De Luxe Theatre (NZHPT Registration # 3498, Category II historic place) and immediately opposite from the Opotiki Hotel (NZHPT Registration # 3499, Category II historic place).


The Shop Buildings comprise an extensive complex, incorporating four shops fronting Church Street, two warehouses/ workshops fronting Kelly Street and an additional warehouse fronting Potts Avenue. A small open yard lies in the centre of the complex containing further ancillary structures, including a possible cool room with timber lean-to, a powder room and a men's urinal. Access to two small toilets within a corrugated iron structure is also from the yard, although the facilities themselves lie in a secondary yard, whose use is shared with an adjoining property. The yards are separated by a tall brick wall, which served as a firewall around the complex from about 1914 until part of the secondary yard was purchased prior to 1967.

The complex developed from a single timber structure in the northeastern corner of the site (possibly pre-1880 in origin), to a two-shop complex with rear rooms and an adjacent warehouse or workshop by May 1906. Major extensions were added in 1914, incorporating two additional shops at the southern end of the Church Street façade and a warehouse fronting Potts Avenue, with a central yard accessed by a gated alleyway from Kelly Street. The last major expansion took place prior to 1967 - perhaps in the 1930s or 1940s - after part of the secondary yard was purchased and a pre-existing warehouse or workshop incorporated into the complex. Gradual infilling of the alleyway is likely to have taken place from this time.

East elevation

The east elevation contains the main frontages of the four single-storey timber shops, all of which have hipped corrugated iron roofs. The earliest shop, at the northern end of the elevation, has a recessed central double-door with a single light and large plate glass windows divided by moulded mullions. It is little changed from its appearance in the earliest known photograph of the building, except for the insertion of two later rectangular mullions in the lower sections of the main windows.

The pre-1906 addition immediately to the south copies the appearance of the first structure, although it is not as wide. Metal vents in the panels below the windows may be early insertions. The third shop again copies the first in appearance, although there are differences in the mullion mouldings and the light above the door is double rather than single. The fourth shop is likely to have employed the same design, as shown on early photographs, maintaining a unity of appearance throughout the whole shopfront in spite of its organic development. This has been reinforced by the uniformity of the verandah, which extends the full length of the frontage. Together with its chamfered posts this may, until at least 1926, have extended one bay beyond each end of the frontage. The verandah roof may be that installed in 1914.

The fourth shop has been remodelled, perhaps in 1926, incorporating similar design elements to the adjacent De Luxe Theatre, also built by the Shalfoon Brothers. It has a much deeper recessed entrance - allowing a greater window display area - larger doors and plate glass windows. The latter incorporate elaborate leadlights above, with rippled glass of varying patterns. Unlike the solid timber doors in the earlier structures, those in the modified frontage contain glass panels. The windows incorporate brass mullions, while marbled ceramic tiles have been applied to the base of the frontage below the windows.

North elevation

The north elevation incorporates the side of the earliest shop, its pre-May 1906 extension and an associated warehouse/workshop of the same date, and a smaller warehouse/workshop to the west.

The earliest structure is clad with shiplap weatherboards and contains a blocked-in window. Replacement of the roofing iron in 2003 revealed a timber shingled roof, which was retained beneath the replacement iron. The timber addition incorporates rusticated weatherboards, an original door with light above, and two windows inserted in 1914 for an office beside the alleyway to the central yard. The light above the original door may indicate the initial presence of a lateral corridor running at the back of the two shops in place at this time.

The associated gabled warehouse/workshop has a timber-framed corrugated iron frontage and contains large double doors providing vehicle access to an internal loading bay. These replaced a previous door of smaller proportions, shown in an early photograph. The space occupied at an early stage by a gated alleyway to the main yard is infilled with a corrugated iron clad office with a single window. Both this and the main warehouse/workshop are roofed with iron.

The western wall of the main warehouse/workshop consists of a tall brick firewall, separating the structure from a smaller workshop to the west. The latter is a slightly more recent structure with a separate timber frame. It is similarly gabled and clad with corrugated iron on its main frontage, although elsewhere it is covered with shiplap weatherboards. Its main elevation contains panelled double doors with a blocked-up light above and more recent flanking windows. Immediately to its west is a corrugated iron gate - lying outside the land proposed for registration - which provides access into a secondary yard. A single doorway in the yard provides access to the western elevation of the warehouse/workshop structure. The building is roofed with recently installed corrugated iron.

West elevation

The only element fronting Potts Avenue is the western elevation of the circa 1914 gabled warehouse. This incorporates rusticated timber weatherboards at an upper level and more recent panelling beneath. A large roller door has been installed comparatively recently, offset to the left. The structure is flanked on its southern side by the rear elevation of the De Luxe Theatre.


The interior incorporates numerous small interconnecting rooms, with differing timber floor levels and details. The largest spaces are those adjoining the eastern frontage of the complex, which have been opened out as part of the development of the department store, and storage/workshop areas on its western side.

The two northernmost shops (spaces 3 & 4) are of broadly similar east-west dimensions, although their widths vary in size. One has a tongue and groove ceiling, while the other is of board and batten. The latter, in the earliest part of the building (space 4), reveals details of earlier internal arrangements, including the existence of a central rear corridor flanked by two rooms. The northernmost of these incorporated the larger part of a back-to-back fireplace, suggesting that it was used as a kitchen/living area. The southernmost was unheated and may have been utilised as a bedroom. The front fireplace of the back-to-back chimney evidently heated a large room straddling the whole width of the building, presumably the shop prior to the pre-May 1906 extensions. The upper parts of the divisions at the rear of the window display areas survive in both these shops.

The third shop (space 2) - dating to 1914 - is larger, reflecting an increasing emphasis on open space. There are traces of a larger display area than the two earlier shops. Its rear wall also contains a blocked window and door that originally opened out onto the main yard. Both this and the earlier two shops have had their interconnecting walls pierced to create larger, more open spaces as the department store concept became yet more fluid. The rear rooms of the first two shops, with board and batten ceilings, have also been opened out (spaces 5 & 6). Most of the walls of these three shops are lined with shelving - much of which has re-used earlier material after internal re-cladding with fibrolite. All three shops contain long timber counters, also probably relocated from their early twentieth-century positions.

The fourth shop - modified in ?1926 - is the largest in the complex, and has a pressed metal ceiling for most of its length (space 1). Originally the most ornate space in the building, no shelving or counters of note survive. Two offices exist in the middle part of the complex, both incorporating timber desks, chairs and other elements linked to office work. One of these was created in 1914 and retains its tongue and groove lining (space 7). The other is more recent and may be lined with covered plasterboard or a similar material (space 18). Infilling of the earlier alleyway to the south of the rear office includes a pest-proof storage room (space 16) with an additional inner space lined with fibrolite (space 17). The southernmost part of the covered-in alley now contains washing facilities (space 15). Pencil graffiti survives on the eastern wall of this room, originally an outer wall of the pre-May 1906 addition. Some of the graffiti is dated to 1928.

The main storage and workshop areas lie in the eastern part of the complex, in most cases originally separated from the shops by the alleyway or open yards. The earliest of these (space 19) is accessed internally via a sliding door from space 15, bearing the stencilled lettering 'Shalfoon Bros Store Room'. The internal face of this door incorporates the hand-painted words 'Shalfoon Bros Furniture Factory' in green paint on its cross-bracing. The space is tall and wide, with work benches around at least two sides, a timber mezzanine - again on two sides - and an earth-floored loading bay at its northern end. The mezzanine is likely to pre-date 1936 as it bears chalk graffiti with that date along with drawings of a ship, Popeye the Sailor Man and references to Olive Shalfoon, one of George snr and Raria's daughters. Popeye's wife was also called Olive. Most of the walls are timber framed and clad with corrugated iron, although its western wall consists of a brick firewall.

A secondary door, made partly of metal as a fireproof barrier, provides access into a smaller warehouse/workshop (space 22). Originally this appears to have been one large space, although the northern part has since been subdivided. The latter room is let out and access was not possible (space 23). The structure was initially accessed from a small door leading off the secondary yard to the west, being part of a neighbouring property. After its purchase by Shalfoons prior to 1967, it was partitioned, with the southern part of the structure being used as a workshop. The latter contains timber benches along two walls.

The third storage area or workshop is located at the very western end of the complex, fronting Potts Avenue (space 20). This has double doors at both ends, with weatherboards on its eastern wall indicating that one of these gave access to an internal courtyard, possibly separate from the main yard. This has since been filled in and incorporated within space 1. Both side walls of space 20 were of brick, being part of the firewall around the boundaries of the 1914 complex, although that on the northern side was being replaced with concrete blocks during the site visit.

The main courtyard is located in the centre of the complex (space 8) and can be accessed by several doors. It contains a small brick structure (space 13), possibly originally a cool room in the lee of the large warehouse to its north. The lower part of the interior was painted a light colour before the insertion of more recent shelves. A timber lean-to attached to its western side could be an early toilet or shed (space 14), while a later brick structure on its eastern side was a powder store (space 12). This has a concrete roof and a metal-lined door, and also contains a metal ammunition box. A men's urinal is located immediately to its east (space 11). Further toilets are accessed from the western side of the yard, and lie inside a corrugated iron structure protruding into the secondary yard (spaces 9 & 10). The secondary yard (space 21) lies to the west of the main firewall, and incorporates the outline of a lean-to that pre-dates the toilets. There is no formal boundary between that part of the yard owned by Shalfoons and that belonging to their neighbours.

Further details of fixtures and fittings are provided in Appendix 5 of this registration report.


The complex contains a very large number of chattels that were left in the building when George Shalfoon jnr retired in 2000. Most of these consist of packaging, advertising material and ironmongery, with some items being of considerable antiquity. While much of this material is potentially significant, effort has been concentrated on identifying a smaller number of key chattels for inclusion in the proposed registration. A full list of these, with relevant description, is provided in Appendix 6.

The rationale for the chattels chosen is that they should either have been closely connected with the everyday operation of the business over some period of time or strongly linked with its owners, or both. Items of the former include a 1920s cash register, a safe, three ladders (including one with graffiti bearing the signatures of some of George snr and Raria Shalfoon's children from the 1920s onwards), a koruru-type carving reflecting George Shalfoon's trade as an interpreter, an early twentieth-century bacon slicer, bobbins containing string (to tie up parcels) that hung from the roof, a Remington typewriter and a metal ammunition box.

Personal items from George Shalfoon jnr's office have also been included, notably a framed certificate of service from the Second World War, photographs of him in uniform, five of his grocer's aprons and a (still knotted) necktie. An in-out board bearing George Shalfoon snr's name along with Stephen Shalfoon, with the latter scratched out for re-use by George Shalfoon jnr, has also been itemised. Ledgers and accounts books dating back to the beginnings of Shalfoon and Francis in early 1938 in George Shalfoon jnr's office have not been included as in the longer term it may be more appropriate for them to be deposited in a professional archive. Similarly other ledgers and receipt books dating back to the 1930s that may belong to the business have been excluded, as has a suitcase marked as containing personal items from George Shalfoon jnr's residence.


Many retail shops have been registered by the NZHPT, including several department stores (e.g. Smith & Caughey Building, Auckland, NZHPT Registration # 656, Category I historic place; Strange's Building, Christchurch, NZHPT Registration # 4391, Category I historic place; Beaths Department Store Building, Christchurch, NZHPT Registration # 3094, Category II historic place). However, the latter are generally located in large urban centres. Few comparisons of small-town department stores are currently known, particularly of vernacular appearance and containing large quantities of historic fixtures, fittings and chattels.

A smaller parallel of a store retaining its fixtures and fittings is the General Store at Oturehua, Central Otago (NZHPT Registration # 7304, Category II historic place), which dates to 1929 and retains counters and shelving, while Bainham Store, Golden Bay (NZHPT Registration # 5110, Category II historic place) - built in 1928 - also retains original fixtures. The interior of Te Aute Store in Hawkes Bay was well-preserved until recently but has been significantly modified and relocated (NZHPT Registration # 4411, Category I historic place). It is not thought that Donovan's Store at Okarito on the West Coast (NZHPT Registration # 5008, Category I historic place) retains many of its fixtures or fittings. A Butcher's Shop in Holloway Road, Wellington is unregistered but retains a large amount of fixtures and equipment linked with the butchery trade. The former Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings, however, appear on current evidence to be rare or unique as a small-town department store maintaining a range of structures (including shops of different dates, warehousing, workshops and offices) that contain associated fixtures, fittings and chattels.

No places directly connected with Rua Kenana are currently known to have been registered. Similarly, few places linked to Lebanese migration have been recognised through the registration process. However, Corban's Estate winery in Waitakere City, which was founded by Anton Corban, has been nominated for registration.

The multicultural dimension to settlement in Opotiki has been recognised through the registration of the Church of St Stephen the Martyr (NZHPT Registration # 142, Category I historic place) - also known as Hiona St Stephen's - which is strongly connected with both Maori worship and the German missionary Carl Volkner, Rostgard's Building (NZHPT Registration # 3504, Category II historic place) which is linked to Danish migration, and Agassiz House (NZHPT Registration # 808, Category II historic place), which is connected with ongoing Maori tenureship of rural land in the Lower Waioeka Valley.

Notable Features

The registration incorporates notable fixtures, fittings and chattels as detailed below and in more detail in Appendices 5 and 6 of the registration report.

The fixtures and fittings include timber shop counters and shelving, a pigeon-hole wall unit, glass screens, light shades, fitted and fixed work tables and benches, a coat rail, an affixed explosives licence and a mezzanine platform with chalk graffiti.

The chattels comprise a koruru-type carving, three ladders, a cash register, two dispenser bobbins, three desks, an 'in-out'name board, a mirror, a freezer unit, a glass display cabinet, three timber chairs, a safe, four banks of timber filing drawers, a timber filing cabinet, a small timber chest of drawers, four grocer's aprons, a necktie, George Shalfoon jnr's framed certificate of service 1939-1945, two framed photographs of George Shalfoon jnr, an explosives cabinet, a foot-rest, a typewriter with cover, a large timber chest of drawers, a book display case, a bacon slicer and a Ford V8 delivery truck.

The complex may be associated with archaeological deposits linked with colonial military and other occupation on the site.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
Timber shop erected on north-eastern corner of site, fronting Church Street.

Shop extended to the west and also by a single bay to the south; earlier chimney removed; warehouse or office erected to west of main building on Kelly Street

Smaller warehouse constructed to west of pre-1906 warehouse/office fronting Kelly Street (originally part of adjoining property)

1914 -
Shop extended by two further bays to south, internal office inserted, yard created with gated access, and warehouse fronting Potts Avenue constructed. Brick firewall around property possibly constructed at this time.

Ancillary buildings erected in year, including brick ?cool store and powder store.

1918 -
Building affected by flooding.

1926 -
Remodelling of southernmost shop.

Office infilling earlier alleyway to yard and internal modifications to shops, including fibrolite linings and reorganisation of counters and shelving. Internal access cut through brick firewall to .. Cont. below

smaller warehouse on Kelly Street and to new toilets. Men's urinal constructed. Earlier alleyway to yard further in filled.

1964 -
Building affected by flooding.

2003 -
Replacement of corrugated iron roof on shops and westernmost warehouse.

2006 -
Demolition of part of brick firewall within warehouse fronting Potts Avenue, and replacement with concrete block wall.

2014 - 2014
Fire damage to one of the building's from an arson attack in February 2014

Construction Details

Predominantly timber frame with timber and corrugated iron cladding, corrugated iron roof and timber piles. Some walls are of brick.

Completion Date

6th April 2006

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Auckland Weekly News

Auckland Weekly News

5 Jul 1906, supplement p.6

Bradbury, 1915

E. Bradbury (ed.), The Settlement and Development of the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, 1st edition, Auckland, 1915

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Binney J., 'Rua Kenana Hepetipa 1868/1869?-1937', updated 7 July 2005, URL:; Shalfoon Reo, 'Shalfoon, Gareeb Stephen 1904-1953', updated 7 July 2005, URL:

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

'George Shalfoon', biographical database



2 April 1974

Morrison, 2003

Kathryn A. Morrison, English Shops and Shopping, New Haven, 2003

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

22 March 2000, p.A4

Opotiki County Council, 1977

Opotiki County Council, Opotiki 100 Years: 1877-1977, Whakatane, [1977]

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.