His new Mitre 10 store, more than twice the size of the existing location, opens on Thursday next week.
Wheeler, who has owned and operated the Mitre 10 in Te Kuiti for over 20 years, says about six years ago he woke up one night, concerned about the future of his business.
“Retail in small towns is dificult to say the least. I wanted to keep as many as my customers here, the Mitre 10 group was taking off, and we needed to make a complete offer,” he says.
Wheeler had to think outside the square to build a new store – and he did just that.
He imported the whole building from Florida, in the United States in one flat-bed and four 40 foot containers.
The recession in the US resulted in many buiding being commissioned but never used for commercial purposes.
“I bought it (the building) sight unseen, which was a bit of a gamble, but the people in Florida were excellent to deal with,” he says.
The containers basically contained steel frames, cladding, and fittings, and local tradespeople erected, repainted and repurposed the building.
Wheeler believes he has saved in excesss of $1 million doing it this way.
The commercial building market in Te Kuiti has picked up with new supermarkets and petrol stations also going in to the small town.
The halo effect from Auckland is noticeable, says Wheeler, with many new residents arriving upacking their bags and coming in to the store for plugs and hooks.
“They are sometimes stand-offish to begin with and then we ask their name, and get to know them, and they start to feel like locals,” he says.
A second generation Mitre 10 owner, Wheeler grew up doing chores
after school in his Dad’s Mitre 10 store down in Taumarunui, which is now run by his brother Kim.
“My Dad told me about the opportunity to buy the Mitre 10 up here 20 years ago, and it was probably one of the best things I ever did.”
The new store will offer the same range, service and price as Mitre 10 stores in the cities, he says.
It is situated just two blocks down from the original store in Taupiri St.