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Lyndon and Jade McNab have been putting the finishing touches to the former Port Molyneux School, which they are opening as a boutique vintage-style wedding and special events venue.

The Owaka farming couple bought the seaside property on the outskirts of Kaka Point in April last year and have been busy renovating and landscaping since then.

The seed for such a venture was sown when English-born Mrs McNab was looking for a venue for her own wedding in 2012.

 

A long-held dream looks set to become reality for Catlins entrepreneur Jade McNab.

McNab and family have recently acquired the derelict former Port Molyneux School in Kaka Point, and have plans to bring it back to life as a boutique wedding venue in time for the coming peak summer season.

The dream began its transformation to reality when McNab and husband Lyndon spotted a for sale sign on the classic, single-building schoolhouse earlier this year.

"I fell in love at first sight," McNab said.

"Even so, I still thought nothing would happen."

McNab, a former interior designer and store planner from the United Kingdom had wanted to establish a wedding venue in her new adopted district ever since an unfruitful search for such a venue for her own wedding several years before.

A "certain feeling", a little mutual persuasion and some back-of-the-envelope sums later, and the couple had taken the leap of faith in purchasing the significantly run-down property, complete with a second schoolhouse and 0.6ha of oceanside land.

"It was so sad to see it run down that we just wanted to recapture some of its atmosphere and spirit. The whole property's got a really nice feel, and we've been learning from locals it's had a lovely history as a school. We think it's got a lot of potential," McNab said.

Site preparation work had now begun, with refurbishment work set to begin when documentation was complete.

"The buildings have good bones, despite needing a fair bit of superficial work, so we're confident we can be open for business come January," McNab said

She and her husband had been delighted by the response of the local community to their new enterprise.

"The response has been amazing. People just seem to be thrilled that something is happening here at last."

Wanting to retain as many original school features during refurbishment as possible, the McNabs wanted to hear from anybody willing to sell or share vintage materials relating to the site.

"We'd love to restore the site with old school chairs and forms, photos, and even to hear people's stories about its history. We're very excited to be here."

South Otago's newest wedding venue is what you might call in a class of its own.

 

Lyndon and Jade McNab have been putting the finishing touches to the former Port Molyneux School, which they are opening as a boutique vintage-style wedding and special events venue.

The Owaka farming couple bought the seaside property on the outskirts of Kaka Point in April last year and have been busy renovating and landscaping since then.

The seed for such a venture was sown when English-born Mrs McNab was looking for a venue for her own wedding in 2012.

 

Instead, they found a "beautiful" location at the Green Park Scout Camp, near their farm, and put up a marquee.Later coming across the old school, which was falling into disrepair, and subsequently buying the property, it all fell into place.

"It does sound like I’m making it up but it’s absolutely true. Everything sorted itself out and happened as it should. It was meant to be," she laughed.

The couple had been  out for a drive one day with their children, Archie (5) and Marla, who turns 3  tomorrow.

Only a glimpse of the old school, which closed in 1999, could be seen. It was largely hidden behind a hedge. 

They then spied a "for sale" sign.

Thinking it would be ideal for a wedding venue, particularly with its stunning sea views, they talked about it all the way home to their farm, a 20-minute drive inland.The couple also discussed their idea with family, who were supportive, and they decided to buy it.

Then the hard work began.

The school had been empty and exposed to the elements, and it had broken windows, leaks and birds were living in it.

"We wanted to keep it as authentic as possible, just freshen it up," Mrs McNab said.

The two classrooms have been opened up as a reception room and an extension added, while the nearby headmaster’s house has been refurbished  for bridal party accommodation.

There is  also an outdoor ceremony space.

The first booking has been received for the venue and an open day is  being held tomorrow  between 1pm and 5pm to allow people to look around.

The couple feel  very fortunate to have had the opportunity to buy the property and Mrs McNab hopes the local community will get spin-offs from their venture.

"It’s not just about us," she said.

"Everyone’s happy to see it back to what it was. It would have just fallen down ... for them, it was quite sad to see it like that, so we’ve had heaps of support,’’ she said.She had  friends with small businesses.

"You can’t just go get a job down the road, because you live out in the middle of nowhere," she said.

Timeline:  

1865 open
1907 reopen
1999 closed