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Shop profile: The Birdcage

Brimming with homeware and fresh flowers, this enchanting store is a dream come true for Tina Heffer

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Tina Heffer with Rusty the Cavoodle at the entrance to her Te Awamutu shop.

Knowing how market-fresh flowers can transform a home, Tina Heffer had always wanted to make them available in Te Awamutu. But she was wary of the risks of buying and selling a fresh product. “You have to be careful selling fresh flowers,” she says. “If they don’t sell, it ends up as waste.”

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However, opening the doors to her shop, The Birdcage, was a move well worth making. Tina always sells out on market days: “People who never used to buy fresh flowers come in every week to buy them,” she says.

Tina opened her shop in March 2014, offering not just flowers, but homewares, jewellery and fashion, bringing to life a long-held dream of owning a shop. “For a long time I had plenty of ideas of what I wanted to sell,” she says. “So I thought, ‘why not do all of them?’.”

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Tina enjoys offering a one-stop shop for flowers, something for the home, or a special gift.

As well as homewares, design books, clothing, shoes, candles, skincare, vases and ceramics, The Birdcage also supplies flowers for local weddings. “It’s an eclectic mix,” says Tina.

With careers in hospitality and make-up artistry behind her, Tina reached her 30th birthday thinking there was no better time to open a store. “Until then I imagined I’d open a café or wine bar, but I realised that when I have children I wouldn’t want to return to work in a cafe. Without children at the moment, the time felt right. Life is too short to watch other people do it.”

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Ceramics and glassware from New Zealand line the shelves.

Within six months of searching for a venue, Tina had opened the shop. Inspired by a birdcage lightshade that hung in her home, she named the store. Playing on the theme, she sourced two oversized birdcages that each cradle a chandelier and illuminate the shop’s interior, which is soft and feminine.

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“I always have a candle burning – I like people to feel relaxed. I wanted to create an experience that would make people want to come back and visit. I like both rustic and polished styles, so the interior is a good mix of that. It was important to me not to have clutter, but instead have a clean appearance allowing people to see items clearly.”

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On Tuesdays and Fridays buckets full of fresh flowers adorn the pavement, providing locals with an array of in-season blooms. “On these days customers know they can get the freshest flowers at the best prices,” she says. Tina keeps the presentation of the flowers simple, without overdressing them. “People should feel like they are actually getting flowers, not a few stems bulked up with greenery. I wanted to create a destination for fresh flowers that are great quality and value, and ideal as gifts or for the home.”

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Tina began stocking jewellery when she struggled to find designs she liked locally.

Words by: Catherine Steel
Photography by: Helen Bankers

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