If ever a first-class visitor attraction defied description, it’s the business premises of E Hayes and Sons Limited in Dee Street Invercargill. At first glance, its modest frontage gives it the appearance of a regular hardware store, but you have only to step off the footpath to realise you have entered a unique and fascinating destination; the likes of which you are unlikely to find anywhere else.
E Hayes and Sons Limited receives hundreds of visitors each year – not only from New Zealand but from around the globe. That’s because the hardware shop doubles as a remarkable free-to-enter museum displaying everything from classic and vintage cars to antique cash registers and early household appliances. Be prepared to spot typewriters from the 50s, a miniature steam engine, and early green grocer’s scales. And did we mention the shop is also home to Burt Munro’s famous record-breaking motor bike, the ‘Fastest Indian’?
When Burt Munro became ill in 1977, he sold his ‘Munro Special Indian Scout’ motorbike, the Velocette, and many other possessions from his shed, to the Hayes to ensure the valuable historic collection would always be housed in Southland, the place he called ‘home’.
As if the extraordinary collection found in Hayes Dee Street establishment isn’t enough to leave you spellbound, the fact that everything is displayed on the working shop floor (with seldom a glass case in sight) defies belief. As you go about your business, whether it’s buying fencing staples by the kilo (yes, the shop still sells them loose rather than in plastic packets!) or hunting down a gardening tool, you’ll be sidling past a gleaming Chevrolet or peering through the windscreen of one of Hayes Hardware’s first delivery vehicles.
The eclectic collection of vehicles, equipment and memorabilia is made available to the public through the generosity of the current Managing Director Neville Hayes who is the grandson of Irving Hayes who opened the first E Hayes and Sons store in Leven Street, Invercargill in 1932. But the story goes back even further to Irving Hayes’ father, Earnest, who began an engineering works in Central Otago in 1895.
Setting himself the task of inventing farm equipment for New Zealand’s developing agricultural industry, Ernest’s pioneering engineering skills led his developing the Hayes permanent fence strainer – a product that is still used on virtually every farm in the country.
Today, visitors to E Hayes and Sons’ shop in Invercargill can wander through 5540 square metes of living museum. There is no need to purchase anything – you are welcome to simply enjoy yourself by exploring the many treasures on display. And if you want to ask questions about anything you see, the shop’s knowledgable assistants will be more than happy to provide you with the information you’re looking for.
If historic artefacts are not your cup of tea, you will still find plenty to do while your other half explores the museum. The hardware shop has a range of quality state-of-the-art tools and kitchen equipment – much of it in keeping with the sort of skills and hobbies that have been handed down through pioneering generations. We were astonished to find hand-operated apple peelers and a range of coffee-brewing paraphernalia seldom found anywhere else! E Hayes and Sons, Invercargill is a must-see destination.