26 October 2023

From farm table to village shop, mother and daughter get down to business in Gunning

| Sally Hopman
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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.

But last weekend, after operating the now thriving business from home they’ve moved on, and out, to a shop in the main street of Gunning.

It was the inevitable next step, according to Ellen, who, with daughter Jess, have a passion for handmade Aussie wares. “We love what we do,” she said, “and we love working together.

“The idea came about a while ago when we had a free weekend and we knew about this vacant shop in Gunning so we asked if we could do a pop-up shop there. We ended up having it open by the weekend.”

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For this hardworking duo, being able to just close the door of the shop at the end of the day rather than pack up stock and marquees that they would normally do at a market, and then unpack everything once they got home, was simply the best.

“I said to Jess, ‘Maybe we should do this’ … have a shop. So we asked the owners and they were happy for us to go in. They were very kind and did the place up for us – it looked fabulous.

“They gave us the keys about two weeks ago and we opened last Saturday at 9 am.

“We’ve had such wonderful support from the community, it’s very heartwarming. We did everything so quickly … we didn’t have any signage so the guy from the cafe did it for us. That’s what this wonderful community is like.”

Bandicute will open from Fridays to Sundays, but Ellen said they planned to be flexible with their hours. “If we’re in the shop packing orders or doing something else, we’ll have the door open so people can come in.”


Felt toys in Bandicute modelled after Aussie party favourites from fairy bread to sausage sandwiches. Photo: Supplied.

Ellen said it was important for them to curate their stock so, along with the pieces they produced, they would also sell other handmade goods from producers they have come to know from their times selling at markets in Canberra and around the region and also from groups promoting good causes.

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“We’ve got some wonderful animals made by a company that supports Nepalese women escaping from domestic violence – they use beautiful Australian and New Zeland wool, and we also have these calendars created on archival paper made by Jo Hollier – “who just happens to be my sister,” Ellen laughed.

“We also plan to stock a few more products for adults, niche items, not mainstream stuff and more books with an Australian bent.”

With the opening of Bandicute, and other specialist shops now and into the future, Ellen said Gunning had the potential to become a little destination spot for travellers between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

“It’s a great little community here,” she said, “and we are thrilled to now be a part of it.”

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