The Rock-it surf shop near the turnoff to Ocean Beach has new owners – and they’re launching it in new directions that will see the old shearing shed also become a café, a centre for music and events, a full art studio and a water’s-edge hireage point for standup paddleboards and kayaks.

The matai-floored shed has already taken on an even more rustic look, with the kauri sheep pens from a similarly aged shed recycled as tables and booths for a café which new Rock-it proprietors Sarah Kay and Rob Bailey hope will be fully up and running by Christmas.

Piles on which the kitchen will be built were about to be sunk when the Chronicle called on Monday, and there’s also a completely different look to the rear of the building where glass doors now open out to decking and a garden area close to the tidal tributary where paddleboard and kayak rental customers should soon be able to launch their craft.

The new-look Rock-it surf shop and art studio – currently licensed to sell only takeaway coffee (Raglan Roast), cold drinks and snacks – had its debut on Labour Weekend Saturday when Sarah and Rob launched their business to the sound of Tractor FM from its new studio upstairs, followed later by live music on the deck.

The buzz and excitement of that day made six months of “hard work and dreaming” all worthwhile, they say, and there was great feedback on the venture.
“We’ve all talked about this mythical place to share,” says Sarah, thinking of friends and acquaintances who’ve got brands to sell, artwork to display and talents to showcase in hospitality and music.

But none of it would’ve happened if Sarah and Rob hadn’t found, after more than a year’s serious search, the lease of the Rock-it shop and shed up for grabs back in March. It had exactly the kind of rustic appeal they were looking for, and belonged to longtime local Ken Thomas.

Essentially, they say, they bought the Rock-it surfing label started back in the ‘80s by KT himself and fellow local identity Chris Banks – “and it fitted in nicely with Tractor FM”.

Rob, a builder, is the man behind Raglan’s alternative radio station which he set up several years ago. Tractor’s been operated from here, there and everywhere around town, he says, but “never has it had a really nice studio” like the soundproof one it’s got now looking down on their shop and café space.

“This is luxury compared to what we had before,” he reckons.

The couple want to bring the nearly 100-year-old shearing shed to life through music and events for Raglan people and its visitors. They aim to have it “represent Raglan” in music, food, clothing, art and accessories.

The shed, originally from the local landlords farmland in Hamilton, now houses tables and booths made from dismantled sheep pens that were inside another century-old shearing shed on Sarah’s family’s farm in Te Awamutu.

Sarah, a chef, admits their inspiration to reinvent Rock-it has come from other rustic destinations such as Leigh Sawmill north of Auckland and the Lily Pad just out of Cambridge. Soon, they too want to be able to cater for private functions while continuing to showcase local businesses – from Tony Sly pottery to Chris Meek steelwork, Tim Turner jewellery and Wiley X sunglasses.

There’s still KT’s artwork and B Rex photography around too.

The public also have the option of accessing Rock-it using stand-up paddle boards and kayaks. All customers need to do is paddle up the estuary on an incoming tide and climb over the back fence to enjoy an hour or two at the cafe.

“We want to work on supporting the locals,” insist Sarah and Rob, who’ve lived and raised a family in Raglan more than a decade now. They’re keen to include the younger generation by making the space, inside and out, attractive and child-friendly while at the same time keeping local art on display fresh and interesting for the adults.

Sarah and Rob would also like to thank everyone that helped them over the winter.

Edith Symes