New container retailers on Elliot Street, Auckland

Nothing excites me more than the POW delivered from ingenious approaches to creating new retail spaces.

I’ve mentioned miLES (Made in the Lower East Side) in a previous blog which is uber-cool, and, unfortunately for us, located in New York City, so I was delighted to discover shipping containers on our home turf being adopted as part of several retail start-ups.

As I made my way to Smith & Caughey’s Sale I was pleasantly surprised by a number of mini containers lining Elliot Street offering everything from Tip Top ice-cream to muffins and coffee, sushi and weiners.

Granted this style of retail is not new. Indeed container retailing had a huge impact internationally as part of the pop-up frenzy.  During 2010-12 it felt like everyone was converting container into short term, pop-up spaces with one of the most impressive being a mobile Puma store made out of 24 shipping containers. It travelled the world as part of the Volvo ocean race enticing shoppers to buy sneakers and have a drink - yes it had a bar!


The prevalent use of shipping containers as retail spaces in New Zealand has been noted internationally and they have been spotted from Britomart to Christchurch’s RE: START container mall, a stroke of genius enabling local retailers to kick-start their trading back in quake-stricken Cashell Mall.  But no matter they are no longer the latest kids on the block, these containers are in my view are little pops of clever, retail pleasure.


RE: START Container Mall Christchurch

Here’s three of my recent favourites which you should check out if you are in the right neck of the woods.

Waterview Coffee Project


Waterview Coffee Project, 29 Daventry Street, Waterview

I stumbled across this fabulous “local” by failing to follow detour signs, and am mighty glad I did.  In an area described by locals as ‘the ghetto in transformation’ is a café which has been operating for about a year and become quite the neighbourhood meeting point.

A valued part of the community, this is the place where locals come to read the paper and drink delicious Kakado coffee whilst out walking their dogs. It’s a focal point for parents to connect while their kids scrawl their creativity on the blackboard wall and footpath or play with the box full of toys.

You can park your bike in the bike stand or your bum on one of the benches, both of which resting places were once wooden freight pallets. Sustainability is key and the re-use, recycle and reduce ethic is apparent throughout the business. Even Cory the barista rides each day on his bike to and from work.

 Food and drink offerings have been well selected with food from Ripe in Grey Lynn, Fairtrade coffee beans and sugar, Fairtrade and organic Cola and Ginger Beer and Nicecream ice-cream.

The container certainly has a rustic (or rusty) character but this adds to its charm.

Contain Boutique, Whangamata

Whilst Barside Espresso, a 20ft container in the side of an alleyway down the Liquor King end of town is my preferred coffee spot in Whangamata, my favourite retailer is Contain Boutique which gives me an amazing injection of retail whilst holidaying. There are only so many pairs of swimmers and jandals a girl can own, so the wares housed in 2 x 40ft containers are a shopping delight.


Contain Boutique, 634a Port Road, Whangamata

I’ve dropped a pretty penny buying Kathryn Wilson shoes and admired Lonely Hearts, Karen Walker, Sylvester, Stolen Girlfriend’s Club delights, Meadowlark Jewellery and Status Anxiety bags. My husband even has something to ogle - Tivoli audio products - and my last near purchase was a David Truebridge light.

Well curated and nobody bats an eyelid when you wander in with sand on your feet.

Island Gelato, Oneroa, Waiheke Island

The newbie, which opened late January 2014, is Island Gelato, based in a very funky container in Oneroa. Occupying what was a vacant site, the store has been absolutely buzzing since it opened. It’s owned by Ana Schwarz (2012 Masterchef runner up) and her husband Jeff and they specialise in hand-crafted gelato, Allpress coffee and bagels from Al Brown’s Ugly Bagels.

Everything about it is fabulous and the gelato, made from fresh fruit and natural ingredients is by all accounts divine. I love the simplicity of the location and the offer although the uniqueness and handcrafted nature of the productsare the jewel in this little crown.


 Island Gelato, Waiheke Island