29 September 2023

Local food and community comes together at Braidwood Arts and General

| Lucy Ridge
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Jo Felstead-Hill, Danielle Dan McKeon stand behind the counter of Braidwood Arts and General

Jo Felstead-Hill (L) and Dan McKeon (R) at Braidwood Arts and General. Photo: Braidwood Arts and General.

Danielle ‘Dan’ McKeon and Jo Felstead-Hill opened Braidwood Arts and General about a year ago, looking for a way to provide local food and plastic-free groceries to the community of Braidwood.

Braidwood Arts and General is a beautifully busy little store, selling fresh produce, staple groceries, as well as locally made preserves, art supplies and more. Dan focuses on the food and groceries side of the business while Jo – an artist herself – is in charge of the local art, yarn, paint and everything else.

Basket of oranges and fennel.

Local farms like Prana Produce supply the shop with fresh fruit and veg. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Dan is passionate about food. The restaurateur previously owned and ran successful cafes in Canberra, and Milk Haus in Milton.

“I believe good food should be accessible to everyone. It shouldn’t be a luxury to eat food that hasn’t been treated with nasties,” she told Region.

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Most groceries in the shop are ordered in bulk so people can fill their own containers and avoid plastic waste. It’s an issue Dan is passionate about. Before owning the shop, she used to run an informal bulk order collective out of her garage in Araluen, splitting 10 or 20kg bags of pasta or rice among friends and neighbours.

Customers at Arts and General can buy clean, recycled wine bottles filled with locally produced olive oil, and refill their own containers with laundry detergent or dry goods.

Dan McKeon stands behind shop counter

Dan is a passionate sustainability advocate. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Dan describes the shop as “a labour of love” and says she and Jo are still subsidising their incomes with other jobs. But at just a little over a year old, Arts and General is fast becoming a staple of the Braidwood community.

“I really value our community,” Dan explains.“We welcome everyone, but we’re really here for the locals.”

Jars of preserves at Arts and General Braidwood

Leftover vegetables are preserved and sold in the shop. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

During our conversation, people wander in and out of the shop. Some are just passing through, but most are locals who want to have a chat. Dan makes note of a product that a regular wants her to order in, someone else calls through the door that they’ll be back in half an hour with some jars to fill, and another person pops in for some eggs.

Dan knows pretty much everyone by name and they all know her.

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Arts and General regularly source produce from four local farms, three of which are certified organic.

“It’s important to us that the growers set all their own prices. We also buy produce from locals: things they’ve grown in their backyards,” says Dan.

Fresh vegetables out the front of Braidwood Arts and General

Fresh vegetables are sourced from local farms, or even the backyards of Braidwood residents. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

When I visit, there’s a mountain of chokos grown by beloved local author Jackie French, as well as carrots, citrus and bunches of greens from local farms arranged aesthetically in buckets, baskets, trays and a retro esky.

Any produce that doesn’t get sold is turned into preserves, pickles and relishes by a local foodie. Customers receive a discount for returning their jar. It’s an old-school way of doing business, relying on trust, connection and community. But it’s working for Dan and Jo.

Braidwood Arts and General is located at 68A Wallace Street, Braidwood, NSW.
They are open from 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday, and from 8:30 am to 4 pm on Saturday.
Follow Arts and General on Facebook or Instagram.

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