Labour of love transforms Ophir store

A restaurant and accommodation outlet will open next month in an Ophir building which housed a general store and butchery more than 140 years ago.

Colleen and David Hurd bought Pitches Store, in Swindon St, in 2006. The building has New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category 2 status, and the couple have restored the exterior to look as "close to the original as possible".

The renovated Pitches building will open in mid-March, and houses a cafe and restaurant as well as providing accommodation for up to eight people.

Asked the cost of the restoration work, Mr Hurd said. "You wouldn't do something like this if you were thinking with your head, instead of your heart."

The couple shifted from Auckland, where they lived for about 25 years, to build a home in Ophir. Mr Hurd still commutes to work as a lawyer in Auckland during the week.

"Let's just say, he won't be giving up work for a few more years, " Mrs Hurd said.

She ran a cafe in Auckland for three and a-half years and they shifted to Central Otago seeking a change of lifestyle.

"I guess being in the cafe business is in your blood, and when we saw this building for sale ... "

Although the building was a "bit of a mess, it just kind of got to you," Mr Hurd said.

Mrs Hurd was brought up in the Manawatu but her husband's family were from Central Otago.

"I lived in Clyde and Mum was from Chatto Creek, and you never grow out of a place like this. I didn't need my arm twisted to come back here, that's for sure, " he said.

The couple built a house overlooking the Manuherikia Valley and run part of it as a bed and breakfast operation.

"We felt at home straight away. Ophir is a real gem. People who come and stay at the B and B think it's magic, and so do we," Mrs Hurd said.

"People up north say, 'What possessed you to move here?', but all you have to do is look outside to get the answer."

Although the project restoring Pitches had been a long one, it was also incredibly satisfying, they said.

After buying Pitches, they learned that David's aunt was a granddaughter of John Pitches, for whom the store was built.

The original building was used as a grocery store and a butchery and was constructed about 1870. Many modifications had been made over the years and it had been used for various purposes, including as a service station.

The stones used to restore it were on site and heritage stonemason Keith Hinds, who has worked on the property, said the restoration had been done with care and attention.

"The way I see it, it's all about doing it the proper and traditional way and no cutting corners, and that's what's happened here," he said.

The new business will employ four full-time staff and a part-timers initially, and has generated lots of interest from locals and visitors, the Hurds said.

They already have some accommodation bookings.

Ophir will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the discovery of gold at Black's Diggings in March 2013.