Photo: From left Tina Swallow, Karen Hendl and Lisa Swallow 

In a charming little craft store in the heart of Te Aroha’s main street, the sewing machine hasn’t stopped running since mid-August, when Auckland went back up to Alert Level 3.

All of a sudden, local requests for masks soared and the crafty trio of Tina Swallow, Karen Hendl and Lisa Swallow at Te Rose Crafts have been sewing non-stop. Now that mask wearing is mandatory on planes and public transport nationwide, the orders keep on coming.

“At first we made a big bunch,” said store owner Karen Hendl, “then we ran out and we had to start doing pre-orders, it was crazy.”

Neither Karen or Lisa, can recall how many masks they’ve made altogether.

“We lost count after 300,” laughed Lisa, “more and more people started coming into the store and we couldn’t make them fast enough.”

The masks are made out of cotton from a variety of fabrics. They’ve even started sewing-to-order with customers bringing in their own fabric, including a local personality who has brought in his favourite tartan to be transformed into a mask, delighting Karen.

“Our friends at Aroha Quilts have also been inundated with mask requests,” she said. “We’re really feeling the support from the community, the shop local message seems to be really getting through.”

Although COVID-19 and the lockdowns have had negative effects for many businesses, it appears a silver lining can be found in this family-owned store run by Karen and her two daughters. “Business has been brilliant,” beamed Karen. “If anything, COVID has helped us, everyone is really positive and taking the buy local message on board.”

While they make many products themselves, Te Rose Crafts proudly sells products on behalf of local artisans who rent a spot on their shelves. Karen and Lisa have both run crafts stalls in the past, appearing at the local markets in Waihou, Morrinsville and Thames. However, two years ago, Karen decided to set up something more permanent.

“It’s always been my dream to own my own shop and two years ago my daughter Lisa prompted me to take the leap,” she said.

At first, Karen had Lisa front the shop while she continued her day job at Bunnings in Te Aroha. A year later when Bunnings closed down, Karen was at a crossroads about what to do next.  

“Then I thought, right. The decision’s been made for me. I’m going to put everything into my business.”

So she did and is loving every minute of it.