A Lifestyle Destination
For Lisa Willetts, the move to North Canterbury from Christchurch was all about lifestyle. In 2013, Lisa and her family were drawn to the peace, slower pace and close community of the Waikuku area. And it’s these elements that Lisa wants to share with visitors to her collaborative business venture, The Old School Collective.
Located on SH1 just a smidge south of Waikuku Beach in the former Waikuku School, the collective opened in 2019. With a mix of beautiful boutique shops and lifestyle services filling the former classrooms, the Old School Collective provides a whole new shopping experience – an open air collective of unexpected finds, beautiful treasures, quality goods and delicious food. Or as Lisa puts it, “A uniquely North Canterbury experience; a lifestyle destination; the antidote to sterile inner-city sameness.”
Sameness isn’t something Lisa loves. Her business journey started out when she created Louis Who – a pre-loved clothing boutique. Initially a short-term pop-up, the business proved so popular that she eventually made it a permanent fixture at the Brick Mill complex, just up the road from the current Collective site. Despite her business trucking along very nicely, when the Waikuku School site came up for sale in 2017, the creative entrepreneur within Lisa came calling once again.
With fellow Brick Mill retailer Sandy Williams of Twine Antiques, Lisa created the Collective concept, secured the purchase, arranged all of the relevant consents and had the premises fireproofed, renovated, repainted and landscaped. With the work done, it wasn’t hard to fill the nine available retail spaces. Sandy’s Twine Antiques fills a corner site, with Louis Who positioned in a room diagonally across the original school quad, which still sports four-square and hopscotch lines. Lisa also launched The Office Café which, hence the name, fills the former school office space and is known for its fresh, locally sourced ingredients and excellent coffee. From the café’s expansive deck, visitors can look out across the Collective to the understated landscaping and other classrooms filled with the likes of Good Dirt Flowers, Out of the Box Hair Studio, Woven Veranda furniture and Milly’s Fudge & Chocolates.
A number of tenants are new businesses, which was Lisa’s aim all along. “We see the Collective as a good opportunity for new businesses to give it a go, with the support of a collaborative environment,” she explains.Visitors are steady throughout the week, and whilst people may come for the café or a specific shop, they are drawn to the other offerings on site. “We have North Canterbury locals and those travelling Main North Road popping in all week long, and we see the Collective as a family destination on the weekends where you can come for the amazing food and do a bit of shopping, with lots of space for everyone.”
Space, fresh air, a relaxed pace and friendly people – everything that drew Lisa to the Waimakariri District all those years ago is now available in spades for everyone at The Old School Collective.
The Old School Collective can be found at 1429 Main North Road, Waikuku. Visit www.osc.nz/ for more information.