18 Jan 2019

The Freeman family's 100 years of service in Wellington

8:00 pm on 18 January 2019

Ninety-eight years of a family serving customers on Molesworth Street has come to an end, with Freeman's Bookstore owners Tony and Lorraine, finishing up in the shop they've owned for 44 years.

Wellington's Freeman's Bookstore owners Lorraine and Tony Freeman.

Freeman's Bookstore owners Lorraine and Tony Freeman have owned the store for 44 years. Photo: RNZ / Laura Dooney

The couple took over the shop from Tony's father Bill in 1975.

But the family's association with the street goes back even further, with Tony's grandmother opening a milk bar on Molesworth St in the early 1920s.

The shop was originally at 24 Molesworth St but moved up the street around 1985 to make way for a new court building.

Sportsmen and politicians

When Bill Freeman owned the shop he was also the coach of the Wellington rugby team - meaning the shop became a bit of a rugby hub, Mr Freeman said.

"A lot of All Blacks came in there ... they were in his rugby team. And from those premises down in 24 Molesworth Street, they planned the demise of the Springboks in 1965 and the Lions in '66."

Keith Holyoake was also a regular in the old shop - his wife Norma and Tony Freeman's mother Nola used to read magazines in the back room, before they went on sale.

Tony and Lorraine also had their share of politicians coming through in later years including Winston Peters and David Lange, who Mr Freeman had one very vivid memory of.

"A magazine did an article about him that was just a little bit derogatory, and a lady was standing at the counter telling me how terrible this was and shameful and the man should this, that, and the other thing, and he's standing behind her, and I'm thinking 'Oh my gosh please be quiet'.

"He came up the counter, bought the magazine and said 'Hello ma'm, I hope you have a lovely day'."

Valuing the regulars

Mrs Freeman said she'd miss chatting to all the regulars.

"It's not just standing and serving. Here, it's have a chat.

"On a Saturday Tony will say, when I get here, 'I haven't achieved anything' because everybody comes in and just wants to stand and chat, which is nice, because you go into most places today and you can't stand and chat, nobody wants to stand and chat, they're busy."

Tania Turner had been coming to Freeman's since 1990 - and said it was a one stop shop for everything.

"It's been so nice dealing with them over the years, they do the dry cleaning and all sorts, it's just very sad that they're leaving."

Customers had been coming in to say goodbye, bringing flowers and wine, and saying their farewells.

Mr Freeman said he would forever miss working in the shop and seeing those customers every day.

"It's been so long and it's a bit like family, these people come in and they're not customers, they're friends and a lot of them are like that, and that's how it's been for us and now they're coming in and it's sort of a bit hard to take."

The Freemans were looking forward to the next stage and what they'd be doing, but Mr Freeman said on Friday, he had mixed feelings about it.

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