by Helen Marin
Jenny Coles has deep connections to the local area. Through her father Rex Drinnan she traces her line back to the Drinnans who were among the first settlers, arriving from Scotland in the 1860’s. Over the years, her great-great-grandmother Janet became fondly known as ‘the mother of Kaukapakapa’. Jenny grew up on the family farm in Waitoki, as a child developing the habit of working hard by milking the cows in the morning before school.
After attending Waitoki Primary School and Kaipara College Jenny did office work then, with her husband Wayne Coles, a descendant of early settlers the McLeods, moved to Perth for three years. On their return to New Zealand Jenny and Wayne settled into farm life and raised three children. Eventually Jenny was employed part time as the Sports Coordinator at Kaipara College. This suited her love of sport – for many years she played touch rugby, she has only recently stopped playing hockey, her main sport, and she still plays tennis, is Treasurer of the Helensville Tennis Club and goes to the gym most days– but while she loved the job she needed longer hours and found work in the Kaukapakapa real estate office, a very satisfying job because she knew the area so well. When her hours there were shortened, she took the plunge and bought Allsorts, a gift and craft shop in the middle of Helensville, opening for business on April 1, 2004. Proudly displaying its provenance on the shop front, the Echo Building, built in 1930, was so named because it was an early site for the publication of the weekly paper, The Echo. It was then a bookshop or some time, before becoming a popular wool and craft shop serving the locals’ knitting and sewing needs. Under Jenny’s ownership knitting and crochet are still very important to the business and she has increased her gift lines.
Jenny has always enjoyed her shop, because she likes the interaction with people and because she knows that people in Helensville rely on Allsorts. She likes working hard, but concedes that at the moment retail is tough. “You always have to be ahead of what the customers are going to want. There are so many options, including online shopping. The main concern is to get people who live here to spend here.”
Since she has had the shop Jenny has filled the important role of distributing schedules and collecting entries for the Helensville A&P Show at Allsorts and is very pleased to have been acknowledged for this service with a Community Service Award this year. In another accolade, Allsorts is a finalist in the retail section of the inaugural North West Country Business Awards.
“I’ve always been in this area and don’t feel the need to be anywhere else,” she says. “Everything’s here. I think more locals need to realise that and appreciate and support what we have.