W.A. Coppins

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From its beginnings as a saddlery in 1898 through to its most recent incarnation as an outdoors store and manufacturer of specialty textiles, 255 High Street has been owned and operated by the Coppins family for over 100 years.

coppinsWA Coppins. Photo Courtesy of WA Coppins Ltd
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The Coppins family’s ties with Motueka stretch back over 160 years when W.A. Coppins’ grandparents, William and Mary Anne, first bought property here in 1853. William and Mary Anne arrived in New Zealand in 1842 with their two young sons William (W.A.’s father) and Arthur aboard the Bombay. A third child, Ellen Lauretta was born in 1844.

The younger William initially followed in his father’s footstep by becoming a tailor. Later, he got into the hotel business, owning the Swan Hotel between 1877 and 1880 and the Motueka Hotel from 1880 to his death 1888. His passing came just 10 months after the death of his wife Sarah Anne (née Stagg) leaving behind eight children. The younger children were sent to relatives but the older children were sent out to work.

Orphaned at the age of 12, the company’s founder and name sake William Arthur ‘Bob-a-stitch’ Coppins managed to land an apprenticeship with F.N. Jones of Nelson. He stayed on with F.N. Jones a further 5 years after his apprenticeship before moving to Palmerston North where he met his wife Eva (née Disher).

coppins ledger1901 Bank Ledger. WA Coppins Ltd is still in business with W. Wiggins Ltd. today. Photo Courtesy of WA Coppins Ltd.
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In 1898 William Arthur moved back to Motueka with his bride and bought up Mr. Langley’s bankrupt saddlery business on High St. In 1901 W.A. purchased W.J. Jordan’s High St Saddlery. It burned down in 19061, but was then sold it for a tidy profit shortly afterwards. He used the money to build his new shop at 255 High St and proceeded to buy up most of the block in the following years. He also purchased Arthur Emma’s Saddlery in Takaka which burnt down in 1939 and was not rebuilt.2

One of W.A.’s earliest business dealings was with fellow leatherworkers and saddlers W. Wiggins Ltd.3 - a business contact the two companies maintain to this day. Established in 1866 in Lower Hutt, Wiggins is New Zealand’s oldest privately owned company.4 Today they deal in specialised textiles, supplying W.A. Coppins Ltd with canvas and PVC.5

After World War II it became clear that the company had to diversify if it wanted to survive. William Arthur’s eldest son Charles joined the company in 1930. Charles had specialized in the waning saddlery side of the business and ended up leaving the company in 1956.  ‘Bob-a-stitch’ stayed at the helm of the family business until his death in 1959 at the age of 85. His younger son Leo took over the company upon his father’s death. Leo had specialized in canvas manufacture when he first joined the company in 1936 and help the company diversify into the manufacture of fruit picking bags, horse rugs and tarpaulins. He recruited his son Bill to join the company in 1964.6 In the 1970s the company diversified further and began making sea anchors.

In 1979 Bill became the third generation of Coppins to own a business on the site when he bought the company from his mother. The following year, Bill pulled down the old workshop, erecting a brand new store in its place.7 The company also began selling outdoor goods like kayaks and mountain bikes. Bill’s son Ryan is set to take over from his father some time in the future, becoming the fourth generation of Coppins to run the business.8

Based on research compiled for the refurbishment of the Coppins Shop exhibit at the Motueka District Museum, 2013.

Sources used in this story

  1. Destructive fire at Motueka (1906, October 25) Nelson Evening Mail, p.3
    http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=NEM19061025.2.37

  2. The Coppins Family. Typescript. Family History Folders Collection. Family C Folder 2. Motueka and District Historical Association. Motueka District Museum. Motueka, New Zealand.; W.A. Coppins Celebrates 100 Years 1898-1998 (1998, October 20) The Nelson Mail. Supplement.  p. 1-4

  3. Coppins, W.A. (1901) Accounting Ledger Bank of New Zealand. W.A. Coppins Ltd. Company Records, Motueka New Zealand:  Coppins, Bill. Personal interview with Joanna Szczepanski. 8 July 2013. Motueka, New Zealand.

  4. About Us’ W Wiggins Ltd- Performance Textile Specialists. Accessed 8 July 2013. www.wiggins.co.nz

  5. Coppins, Bill. Personal interview with Joanna Szczepanski. 8 July 2013. Motueka, New Zealand.

  6. W.A. Coppins Celebrates 100 Years 1898-1998 (1998, October 20) The Nelson Mail. Supplement.  p. 1-4.

  7. The Coppins Family’. Typescript. Family History Folders Collection. Family C Folder 2. Motueka and District Historical Association. Motueka District Museum. Motueka, New Zealand. ‘W.A. Coppins Celebrates 100 Years 189-1998.’ The Nelson Mail. Supplement. 20 October 1998. Pg 1-4.

  8. Coppins, Bill. Personal interview with Joanna Szczepanski. 8 July 2013. Motueka, New Zealand.

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Further sources - W.A. Coppins

Books

Articles

Other

  • Coppins, Bill. Personal interview with Joanna Szczepanski. 8 July 2013. Motueka, New Zealand.

Held Motueka Museum

  • Coppins, W.A. 1901 Accounting Ledger Bank of New Zealand. W.A. Coppins Ltd. Company Records, Motueka, New Zealand.
  • 101 years service to Motueka’. Newspaper clipping. Shops and Businesses Folder. Motueka and District Historical Association. Motueka District Museum. Motueka, New Zealand.
  • The Coppins Family. Typescript. Family History Folders Collection. Family C Folder 2. Motueka and District Historical Association. Motueka District Museum. Motueka, New Zealand.

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