Dishing out happiness, lollies

If the shoe fits . . . Sophie Webb feels right at home in Oamaru, after leaving behind her corporate lifestyle in Auckland. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

When Sophie Webb climbed into her car about 1400km north of here back in February, with two bags of clothes and her two dogs, she did not know the road would lead to Oamaru.

‘‘When the last load of Covid came down, I thought ‘no, sod it’ . . .I made my way down the country, and I spent a month in the ’Naki, thinking I was going to live there, but one day, when the trip was due to close, I thought, ‘I always wanted to go to Oamaru’.’’

She arrived in the town one Sunday in March.

‘‘The bands were playing and the market was on, and it was a beautiful day, and I drove down the street, and I saw the buildings and I cried,’’ Miss Webb said.

The next day she put an offer in on a house, the day after that she got a job at the Oamaru Information Centre, and Steampunk HQ, and then quickly organised a rental.

‘‘It’s just mashed on from there’’.

As a long-time lover of vintage memorabilia, the former Aucklander stopped at ‘‘every little town with a treasure shop’’ on her way south, adding to her collection. By the time she arrived in Oamaru, her car was full.

‘‘I ended up having to get a storage unit . . .and I thought, ‘I should think about opening a shop’.’’

So, Mockingbird Lane opened its doors in Harbour St at Labour Weekend.

Miss Webb described it as a curated vintage clothing, artwork and curio store. Part of the building had been the first Craftwork Brewery tasting room.

Although setting up the shop had been hard work, it had ‘‘evolved organically’’, she said.

Items were priced so people who loved vintage could afford them, and she loved to see the smile on a customer’s face when they tried a piece on, felt beautiful, and knew they had found something nobody else had. As an extra sweetener, every purchase came with a bag of lollies.

‘‘So, happiness and lollies. It’s like a Disneyland for repressed grown-ups, this shop.’’

The name Mockingbird Lane was a nod to the ’60s, and the era of The Munsters and The Addams Family.

When the shop was not ‘‘thronging with visitors’’, Miss Webb also ran a digital media company Design Guild, building websites, and helping to promote small businesses — something she was passionate about.

‘‘So I did the Victorian Heritage Celebrations website, and a few other websites around here.

‘‘It works out really well.’’

To add to the eclectic nature of Mockingbird Lane, Miss Webb was hoping to house a regular tattoo artist — either permanently, or have guest artists, who would visit from out of town.

She also wanted to find a cutthroat barber, who she thought might turn out to be another out-of-towner who fell in love with Oamaru, and the Victorian precinct, which she described as having a ‘‘Cuba St vibe’’.

‘‘Because, although there’s a lot of heritage here, the street lends itself to a lot of quirk, and that’s starting to happen, which is great . .. It’s diverse.

‘‘It’s the fact that I can wear things like these [shoes], and people go, that’s a bit weird, but they also embrace it. It’s a happy place to be.’’

Having worked in Auckland’s corporate scene, clocking up 80-hour weeks for decades, she said the move south was for a lifestyle change.

‘‘I moved to Northland — but north is very different. North didn’t sit well, I knew there was something else.’’

She had found herself inspired, as part of an ‘‘amazing community’’ of single, ex-professional women, and felt safe in Oamaru.

‘‘I’m just happy, my dogs are happy. . . Everyone looks out for each other here.’’