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Whitegold store is a sophisticated and well-built home for on-trend homeware in the Bay of Plenty

Most visitors to Whakatane’s whitegold presume it’s named after the modern precious metal. Not so, laughs owner Kate Clark – it’s actually a cheeky reference to the milk cheque that gave the lifestyle store its start.

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Kate and husband Grant are share-milkers on a family farm in Waimana, 25 minutes out of Whakatane. Their Fonterra payout in 2014 was exceptionally good – so rather than paying off debt, the Clarks decided to be bold and invest it in a new business. Two months after their initial discussion, Kate got her chance to open a store loaded with all the homeware, gifts and fashion she’d loved from afar but hadn’t been able to buy locally.

“As a mumcustomized gifts for her, I’d always dreamed of a store where you’d walk in and there was enough room for you and your pushchair in a clean, spacious and organised retail environment that was really creative too. I was keen to give people ideas of how to style and what products work together.”

The store itself is a vision of natural materials – polished concrete floor, a cantilevered plywood wall and pegboards, all softened with jute rugs, animal hides and gorgeous textiles. The space has been deliberately fitted out and furnished with custom-designed, locally made furniture and fittings to give it a unique look – a point of difference Kate is really happy about. She worked with a local marine and cabinetry builder to bring her concept to life and it’s proving a hit with some unexpected fans.

“Guys come in and explore the store simply to check out the construction. Quite often wives send their hubby in to see what we’ve done with ply, because they’ve seen it on TV or in magazines and like having the real-life reference. I’m a big fan of timber; it’s robust but still sleek and has character,” Kate says.

She is constantly searching for local artists who are doing something different or unique, offering whitegold. as a way to showcase their wares and build awareness – and the region is proving to be a fertile hunting ground. Products for Bossy (the 100 percent vegan, good-enough-to-eat skincare brand) are made just round the corner, the national distributor of Ottoloom Turkish towels is based over the hill in Ohope, and Teresa Hodges of BLAK is a local designer. Kate also stocks the work of some clever local mums, who produce items gradually, around their childcare duties – something Kate understands as she too juggles her job around the kindy/daycare run for their two girls, Ava, 4, and Hazel, 2.

Being surrounded by so many gorgeous things, you’d think Kate would be constantly snaffling new releases for her own home, but that doesn’t sit well with this practical farm girl. “It just feels wrong taking stuff from the shop! I’m really careful not to go overboard,” she says.

“Last year Ava saved her Christmas and birthday money and bought her first Minti dress. I’m teaching my girls you don’t just go into the shop and grab whatever you want; they need to learn the value of things. Obviously, I gave her a staff discount,” she laughs.

Text by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Rachel Dobbs.

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