22 December 2023

2023 Year in Review: Taking care of business

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When it comes to business, regional folk are particularly adept at spotting a niche market and going for it! Here are 16 business stories that piqued your interest in 2023.

16. New custodians of historic general store welcomed with open arms
by Morgan Kenyon

little girl thumbs up next to Michelago General Store sign

A vital resource for local residents, the Michelago General Store has changed hands only twice since being built in the late 1980s. Photo: Michelago General Store.

The Michelago General Store has new owners for just the second time since it was established in 1989, and they’re putting a strong focus on the store’s history and role in the community.

15. Snowy Valley’s Kestral Nest hut raises the bar in ecotourism
by Katrina Condie

Eco hut

The first Ecotourism Australia certified accommodation in the Snowy Valleys region. Photo: Kestrel Nest EcoHut.

The Kestrel Nest EcoHut has set the bar high for environmentally conscious tourism in the Snowy Valley.

In recognition of the operators’ efforts to minimise environmental impact and promote conservation, the hut has become the first Ecotourism Australia certified accommodation in the Snowy Valleys region.

14. From farm table to village shop, mother and daughter get down to business in Gunning
by Sally Hopman

Two women behind shop counter

Ellen Bennett and her daughter Jess Dyne celebrate the opening of their shop, Bandicute, in the main street of Gunning. Photo: Supplied.

For a business that started on the kitchen table of their farm outside Canberra, mother and daughter team Ellen Bennett and Jess Dyne, have reason to celebrate.

It was about six years ago when the two were lamenting the absence of quality children’s clothes and toys – with a distinctive Aussie flavour. So, rather than just talking about it, they decided to make their own – or find such handmade products that were all about Australia.

So Bandicute was born. Operating from the family farm outside Gunning, about an hour’s drive north of Canberra, the women produced and sold their unique children’s wear, homewares, and toys mostly at markets – until the online word spread and they found themselves at the post office all the time, shipping out orders.

13. In tree-mendous news, a Bredbo icon has reopened so yule be ready for Christmas
by Claire Sams

shop's Christmas decorations

After being closed for the first five months of 2023, Bredbo Christmas Barn has reopened its doors to the public. Photo: Bredbo Christmas Barn/Facebook.

This is one business that knows what you really need when it comes to Christmas decor.

“You need a tree if you want to get in the Christmas spirit,” said Leanne de Smet, the head elf at Bredbo Christmas Barn.

“My motto is that if you can still see the tree, there’s not enough on it!

12. Life changes put Braidwood couple on upcycling path
by Siobhan O’Brien

Anthony Hoy hosts a hot glass demonstration in the V & M retail space in the heart of Braidwood NSW

Anthony Hoy hosts a hot glass demonstration in the V & M retail space in the heart of Braidwood NSW. Photo: Supplied.

In a single lifetime, Wendy and Anthony Hoy have lived many.

Wendy is a former book publisher and photographer. Anthony cut his teeth as a long-time rural reporter and editor for publications such as the now defunct Bulletin magazine. A chance encounter in a Southern Highlands newspaper office around 16 years ago changed all that. What started as a meeting of the minds soon morphed into a relationship.

Fast forward to the present and the couple are the creative force behind Braidwood’s Vetro e Metallo – or V & M as it’s known.

11. Shaws’ love of lasting quality became a driving force
by John Thistleton

Woman in lounge room

Pamela Shaw with a bureau chest of drawers made in Australia as a one-off item. She spent much of her working life handling antiques and studying the materials and styles that indicate their age. Photo: John Thistleton.

Geoff Shaw once changed gears from being a mechanic on the state’s motor-racing circuit to restoring rare antique furniture. He had met his future wife Pamela while ballroom dancing in Bowral. They toured the racing circuit together, and later launched a completely new venture in fine antique furniture in Goulburn.

That’s when a stroke of luck helped them become a household name in Goulburn. One of Pamela’s contacts in Bowral who worked for real estate agent Westbrooks told her they stored old furniture from people who had used it to pay their rent.

“We had a look at the store and it absolutely blew our eyes wide open,” Pamela said. “It was everything we needed.”

10. Worlds apart but Goldfinch the Label is on the move in the fashion world
by Siobhan O’Brien

The entry to the established Goldfinch studio/store in Pambula.

The entry to the established Goldfinch studio/store in Pambula, NSW. Photo: Goldfinch.

Pambula, on the NSW South Coast, and Kingston ACT are polar opposites. The former is a sleepy seaside village with a bakery on the main street, a couple of pubs and a caravan park adjacent to the beach. The latter, located four kilometres from the city, is the oldest, most densely populated suburb in Canberra.

But a revamp in recent years has turned Kingston into something even better than it was before. It now features some of our nation’s capital’s finest hotels (Hotel Realm), eateries (Onzieme) and apartments (Kingston Foreshore development). Nevertheless these two spots have one thing in common – designer Megan Luhrs.

9. Brewing up some sweet sounds in Ulladulla’s industrial centre
by Siobhan O’Brien

Wombat Brewery owner standing with staff member and two customers

Aaron McKay, the owner of the Wombat Brewery, serves his thirsty guests. Photo: Wombat Brewery.

Think of an industrial area on the periphery of any town or city. Doubtless you’ll picture a concrete slab and warehouses filled with mechanics, joiners and wholesalers.

The industrial estate in Kings Point, on the outskirts of Ulladulla, is another case in point, but the arrival of Wombat Brewery, a beer factory and live music venue, and Studio 5, a music production studio co-owned by popster Hein Cooper, hails the advent of a new era.

According to Aaron McKay, the owner of Wombat Brewery, opening in an industrial area was a “no-brainer”.

8. Braidwood duo has designs on New York
by Siobhan O’Brien

Dena Pharaoh-Pezzano and Jane Magnus - the creative force behind the Saloon

Dena Pharaoh-Pezzano and Jane Magnus – the creative forces behind the Saloon Design House – pictured in their Braidwood headquarters. Photo: Saloon.

What do Australian actor Naomi Watts and New York-based media doyenne Laura Brown have in common? They both own and wear clothes from Braidwood’s Saloon Design House.

The clothing label that goes by the same name has a global reach for good reason.

These ethically made, limited edition garments that are designed and made in a historic building in the heart of Braidwood are not your standard fare. They are best described as a study in contrasts that blur the boundaries between costume and the everyday.

7. Ken Nash recalls 50 years of Goulburn’s menswear industry
by John Thistleton

After 50 years in the menswear business, Ken Nash, who retired in 2021, says the quality of clothing and personal service have left the industry. Photo: John Thistleton.

For more than 70 years, the name Nash has been synonymous with menswear retailing in Goulburn. Brothers Len and Perce Nash began their business after returning from six years of service in World War II.

Moving to Goulburn, the brothers first ran the Trims department store where the Paragon Cafe stands today before opening Len Nash Menswear opposite the Hibernian Hotel.

6. Taralga farmer sniffs sweet whiffs of success with national awards
by Sally Hopman

Woman with laundry crystal product range

April Dumbleton runs her award-winning Rubywood Laundry Whiffs business from her farm kitchen at Taralga, near Goulburn. Photo: Supplied.

From adversity to success in just a whiff: the Goulburn woman behind Rubywood has cleaned up at the 2023 Australian Rural Business Awards.

When her husband Tom suffered a heart attack in 2020, April Dumbleton knew it was a life-changing moment for both of them.

5. Dam fine place to enjoy Pejar’s sparkling panorama
by John Thistleton

woman admiring dam view from bed

On frosty still mornings, Pejar Dam’s surface shimmers in the winter sunlight and will earn a reputation among tourists as an ideal place for visiting, according to entrepreneurs Matt and Amy Szombati. Photo: Supplied.

In the scenic hills near Crookwell, Pejar Dam has earned a widespread reputation as a trout and bass fishery.

Captivated by the sweeping views surrounding the dam, two serving police officers from Sydney’s south-west are establishing a glamping and wedding venue business on Pejar’s foreshores.

Husband and wife Matt and Amy Szombati bought a 14.5-hectare property at Wayo where they are levelling up a site for glamping, a luxurious version of traditional camping.

4. Birdsnest named Online Retailer of the Year
by Gail Eastaway

Cooma's Birdsnest store has been named the Online Retailer of the Year at the 2023 ORIA Awards.

Birdsnest founder Jane Cay (middle) with Ashley Roberts (digital marketer), and Belen Leveroni (customer experience) at the announcement of their three ORIA awards on 20 July. Photo: ORIA Awards.

Snowy Monaro retailer, birdsnest, located in Cooma, has won three prestigious industry awards, including Online Retailer of the Year at the Australia Post Online Retail Industry Awards (ORIAS).

Birdsnest’s media team said they were “delighted to have taken home the following awards: Best End to End Customer Experience and Best Multichannel Retailer”.

“And with huge excitement we announce we have been awarded the Online Retailer of the Year 2023 award,” they said.

3. Dahlia queens and king proteas – the blooming business of growing flowers in the Bega Valley
by Lisa Herbert

Ali Rodway and Geoffrey Badger surrounded by flowers

Geoffrey Badger and Ali Rodway commence a day of picking dahlias at Buckajo Flowers, Bega Valley. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

Ali Rodway holds up a spectacular neon dahlia bloom saying, “This is what we call Buckajo Watermelon, or Carlos Watermelon. We have grown these for 20 years. It’s really the flower that started Buckajo Flowers.”

Ali and her partner, Geoffrey Badger, live and work on their flower farm near the Bega River, taking dozens of arrangements to the weekly Bega Valley Produce Market, as well as supplying local florists.

2. New owners to retain the friendly country vibe at Nelligen’s Steampacket Hotel
by Katrina Condie

hotel beer garden

The Steampacket Hotel at Nelligen sold for $3.3 million in January. Photo: Sadil Quinlan Properties.

After driving past the Steampacket Hotel “thousands of times” on their way to the coast, the new owners jumped at the chance to purchase the iconic country pub overlooking the Clyde River at Nelligen.

Ben Johnston and Kalina Koloff bought the property in January and were excited to continue offering the great food, live music and fantastic events the Nelligen locals have grown to know and love.

1. Kieran Davies has an ear for music and the Goulburn car market
by John Thistleton

man sitting in office

Kieran Davies once had a succession plan for when he left Goulburn Motor Group, for his son-in-law James Aubusson as his heir apparent. But the former NRL star and his wife Tahlia moved to Ballina. Photo: John Thistleton.

In good health at age 61, Kieran Davies nevertheless believes the window on his active working life is beginning to close. The dealer principal at the Goulburn Motor Group has sold to National Capital Motors, represented in Goulburn by David Albrighton. He is moving to Melbourne with his wife Lisa, who he married five years ago, and their daughter Ella, who arrived a year ago.

In Melbourne, Kieran plans to establish a tunnel car wash, a concept well established in the US but new in Australia. It relies on a critical mass of population and can wash up to 150 cars at a time.

It’s another pivotal time for Kieran, who came to Goulburn from Wollongong as a music teacher, learned the car industry and bought into the business after giving Peter Clifton a lift home one night and discovering he wanted to sell his Toyota dealership.

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