BusinessJune 22, 2024

Pacific profiles: The man behind Junk & Disorderly and the Central Flea Market


The Pacific profiles series shines a light on Pacific people in Aotearoa doing interesting and important work in their communities, as nominated by members of the public. Today, Richard Stewart. 

All photos by Geoffery Matautia.

Richard’s nominee wrote:

Richard Stewart is the son of two Pacific Island immigrants and has been a pillar in the secondhand community in New Zealand. Operating a small family business (Junk & Disorderly) over the last 32 years his success can be attributed to his hard work and strives to always give more than he takes. Often you will find him at work seven days a week for months at a time. The first to arrive and last to leave. 

Within the secondhand community, he has been influential in changing the wheeler-dealer stereotype through his genuineness, honesty and integrity. Quick to help without ever expecting anything in return.  His want to foster a community even when ‘vintage’ wasn’t trending has resulted in the Central Flea Market. Aoteroa’s biggest vintage and second-hand market right here in the heart of Tāmaki Makaurau.  His love for secondhand items which were around during his childhood and in many other Pacific Island homes has resulted in an amazing Elvis portrait collection.  

I could think of no one more deserving than him for a bit of spotlight even though I know he will hate me doing this but he is far too humble and quick to give others credit so I thought I would reverse the roles.

For more than 30 years, Junk & Disorderly has been Tāmaki Makaurau’s premiere vintage and secondhand store. And more recently, the Central Flea Market in the carparks surrounding that store has been a staple on every thrifters’ calendar. On a busy Sunday morning during the hustle and bustle of the flea market, we sat down with Richard to discuss his love for all things secondhand. 

Where are we right now?

Our store, Junk & Disorderly in Mount Eden. This is our office, well it’s kind of an office, there’s stuff everywhere (laughs).

Could you tell us about where you’re from?

My mum is Sāmoan and Tokelaun. She was born in Saleufi. Dad is where we get the Stewart name from. My grandfather was Scottish, and my grandmother was Sāmoan/German. So, I say I’m a bit of a fruit salad!

Dad came to New Zealand early, I’m not too sure about the dates. He grew up in Fiji and then when he was 15, he went on the boats. He was away for quite a few years and when he got back to Fiji he found that all the family had left and come to New Zealand. He didn’t know because he was out at sea. Mum came to New Zealand around the 1960s. Mum was of that era that when they came to New Zealand they were told “no Sāmoan, only their way, the Pālagi way.” She always regretted not speaking Sāmoan all the time. I can’t speak it, my kids can speak more because every time I sent them to Mum it was always Sāmoan. 

Have you always had a love for secondhand goods?

Nicole, my wife, and I have always loved secondhand stuff. We’ve been together since high school. It’s evolved from there. I think it was our love for vintage, being brought up with secondhand things. I guess it’s a very Pacific Island thing. You know, I was always getting hand-me-downs because I was the second youngest. And for Nicole, she used to go with her grandma to the tip when she was young. 

How did the store come about?

We’ve been doing this for 32 years. It was 1991 when we first opened the little shop. We started on the North Shore. We were there for 27 years behind the Bridgeway Theatre in Northcote Point. Then we were on Onewa Road and finally Woodside Ave. We came here, to Mt Eden, about five years ago. We still live on the Shore and commute every day. The traffic is terrible, does my head in (laughs). 

And is your family involved with the store, too?

Yup! Nicole and I are on this 24/7. Friends can’t get over how we work together and then go home together. Macie runs the coffee shop. She’s the youngest of our four children and the talker. She’s just opened another coffee shop in Takapuna. She’s doing really well. My son, Harry, also helps us out. Sebastian does the bacon and egg butties with his friends outside and he hunts for vintage clothing, too. He tries to get as many local labels as he can. Our eldest daughter, Briahn, lives in Christchurch. All our children have been bought up in the shop. They were serving at four and five, and just here all the time. Oscar, our grandson, is here at the moment which we love. He likes to get behind the counter. He’s quite a hard case. 

There are a lot of interesting things in the store. Do you have any favourites?

That’s hard. For me, something doesn’t have to be worth a lot to be my favourite. And as you can see, we keep the things we like. We’ve got a real chair thing. I don’t know what it is. We love local pottery, and art too. It’s not all about the monetary value. Anything placed high up in the shop is our stuff. You’ll see lots of religious icons because we’re Catholic. I have crosses and crucifixes everywhere. Everyone asks about the clocks. There are a few neon signs too. Some people get mad that you’re not selling them. I don’t know why. It’s my collection and it’s what I love. They’ll keep it for themselves anyway!

When we did the call-out for nominations for this series, your nominee wrote that your style “within the second-handcommunity he has been influential in changing the wheeler-dealer stereotype through his genuineness, honesty and integrity.” Can you speak to that? 

Well, we always try to be honest. That’s it. So, if someone brings something in and asks for a price, then I’ll give them more if I know it’s worth more. That’s just how I was brought up. To always be honest. If you don’t, it’ll come back. Gotta keep up the good karma. 

You’ve also fostered a great community with the Central Flea Market. When did that start?

Nicole and I have always wanted to create a market for the younger generation to get involved with second-hand and vintage goods. It’s gotten so busy and popular over the years, and it’s really an extension of the store. It’s a lot of work but it’s great. Over the years, we’ve seen younger people get more into buying second-hand and vintage items. You never used to see it. I think they’re realising that these items last a lot longer than going to Ikea or the Warehouse and buying some cheap chipboard stuff that doesn’t last. And every piece has a story! Someone drank from that cup of tea. Someone sat in that chair. You can see where it’s been rubbed and rubbed by someone sitting. We do a few new products just to keep the business going. When someone comes in here they can touch, feel and smell each item. You can never tell from a photo. 

Is there an item that means the most to you?

It’s actually not in the store. But it’d be my grandmother’s flying duck collection. She lived in Wellington and always had flying ducks. All my uncles and aunts all knew how much I loved flying ducks. When she passed, I inherited her collection. It’s not worth the most, but they’re worth the most to me. 

What do you see for the future of this store?

Well, it’s been more than thirty years now. I suppose it’s just carry to on for a while. I don’t know if I’d sell it. Eventually, Nicole and I would like to move up North. Nicole loves gardening. But we’re not sure time period-wise. We’ll see. 

This is Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air.

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