In the days of John Black
The Stone Store traded in kauri gum from the 1850's but the peak years for the gum trade were the 1890's and early 1900's.
John Black purchased the Stone Store business in 1888 and with energy and enterprise, proceeded to expand the business. As a public spirited man he was also interested in promoting the welfare and progress of the area.
Soon after his arrival he had his own steamboat, Firefly, built locally, which plied to Russell with loads of kauri gum to be loaded on the Northern Steam Ship Company's ships for the big gum stores at Auckland and returned with goods for the store.
Black reorganised facilities for the loading of the gum which was sorted on the first floor of the store and lowered by a winch into a small wheeled truck which ran along rails that had been inserted into heavy timber girders which were laid across the roadway to the wharf. There was a span that could be lifted to allow carts and wagons to pass when loading was not in progress. Underneath the wharf he established a butcher's shop with the 'abbatoir' across on the pa with the meat brought across on the 'beef punt'. Sheds were built for storage on the wharf.
The small cottage across from the store was enlarged and, with the addition of several existing buildings, became eventually a fourteen room residence where travellers could be accommodated—gum diggers and the few visitors of those days.
Black was responsible for the first public school at Kerikeri which was a one-room building on a small terrace just below the church.
John Black married Ethel Jane, daughter of James Kemp junior. There were two sons and six daughters of the marriage. Sadly, Black died in 1909 at the age of 58 and his wife with her young family moved away from Kerikeri. Years later several of the Black family returned to live here.