When Gary Wright started his apprenticeship at the family business Wrights Jewellers in 1971, both the main street and life in Pukekohe looked very different to when his Grandfather first opened the shop in 1912. The population of the town was around 6,940, there were 129 businesses, and Australian Niel Allen beat Frank Matich by four-tenths of a second to capture the New Zealand Grand Prix held at the racetrack on January 9th.
Now, 49 years later, as Gary hands over the reins completely and heads to retirement, one thing that has remained the same and continues to this day is the same commitment to quality and service that has seen generations of families in Pukekohe and further afield trust Wright’s Jewellers with purchasing or repairing items that represent significant moments in their lives.
“We have always been a family business, and I’m proud and humbled by the support of our local community over the years. Many family members, including nieces and nephews have had part times jobs here, and before shops were open on Saturdays, we would hold late nights on Friday and our three children would all come down to the shop. The lead up to Christmas was always busy and Christmas Eve, the busiest of them all and they would all sit in the workshop watching Christmas movies amongst the sparkle of lights.” Gary smiles.
“My most memorable moment, although there were many, was remodelling an engagement ring that belonged to a customer’s mother. She loved the thought of using the ring but wanted it to be a little more modern. The ring itself had been purchased from our shop originally, so knowing the history behind it and all about the family members made it a very special job to complete. Oh, but there were funny moments too, like when we were all out in the workshop and heard a bang and loud crash from the store, only to find a young teenager trying to climb inside a grandfather clock” laughs Gary.
The time has come now though for Gary to hang up his watchmaking tools, leave the workshop in the capable hands of his daughter Rhian and husband Ben and spend more time with his favourite pastime.
Rhian sums it up quite well. “Dad has long had an association with the Pukekohe Hot Rod Club and the Meremere Drag strip, so it’s just a change of materials for him really. Instead of tinkering with watches and polishing precious stones in the workshop, he will be under a bonnet or chassis tinkering and polishing a larger piece of history and whilst we will miss having him around, we wish him the very best in his retirement and will always know where to find him if we need him.”