When I met an old friend buying lunch in Eltham’s rural fringe (Vic) at the historic Kangaroo Ground (KG) Supply Store, who I KNOW has a business in suburban Eltham – full of eateries – my approval of the new entrepreneurial ownership was confirmed.
The KG Store is my ‘local’. We live 5 minutes down the road, our 3 boys went to the tiny rural primary school across the road, and we have seen several owner/managers come and go. The old building has a lot of character, but in recent years it had become ‘a last resort’. The Post Office shut down, fuel was no longer sold and the range of goods was very limited. The operators didn’t seem to connect with customers. Casey Butler has turned that around and she told me how…
These two young couples all grew up in the area and lived even ‘further out’ than we do. They knew the store as a success and it was Mark’s idea to buy it and return it to the glory days.
Casey and Pete live on the premises but it’s Casey who’s ‘running with it’. The others squeeze in ‘shop time’ but all have full time jobs.
Historically the store supplied all the general needs of the fairly remote community living a green wedge lifestyle choice on acreage ‘further out’. The KG hamlet consists of a church, the Kinder, the school, the store and the Tennis Club. There are several private schools in area that KG kids attend and people had developed shopping patterns, often en route to pick up kids, that excluded the KG Store, especially when the Post Office closed.
Casey and Mark scrubbed the whole building, inside and out and use a vanilla air freshener. They opened up the interior into one big room with freshly sanded and polished boards. A completely new kitchen and counters are on order. The shop looks and smells clean.
Casey got out her Melways and went for a drive to learn the area. She has employed lots of locals who know the area AND quite often the customers. She has made sure they know the ‘Frequently Asked Questions. As they are friendly and ‘local’, parents now treat the store as a community hub, happy for school kids to spend time there waiting for a bus or a ‘parent pick up’. There’s a flat screen TV, Casey plays one of the DVDs they now hire out, the kids buy a snack and socialise – very community, very friendly. Locals meet there.
The store now sells what people want including the milk of choice – made a huge difference – a great selection of bread, fresh produce and local olive oil, jams, chutneys etc and even local black truffle oil! The shelves are full – you can get a lot of stock on consignment Casey says, lessening risk. The petrol pumps are fixed and you can now exchange both types of gas bottles.
They make school lunches, run accounts for the CFA, the Pony Club and After School Care and will be attending the local Trivia Night.
The history is still there in old photos – the store has actually burnt down twice since 1875 – and someone has recently given the store a large school project with some great photos of the hamlet’s evolution.
These young entrepreneurs have substantially increased the turnover in 12 months and I keep seeing more cars in the carpark and more people around generally…
After buying the property, but with tenants operating the business, some renovations geared to establishing a bottle shop were carried out. BUT due to the wording of the legislation this was ‘not on’. Casey said to the others ‘Get me some tables and chairs’. She now has an eatery operating within the store AND they’ve put stools, eating benches and clear placcy blinds around the veranda for those wanting a latte al fresco!
The group is still investigating the the possibility of a bottle shop. Local vineyards can’t get permits for Cellar Door operations due to Council regulations, so they may be able to have a partial bottle shop stocking local wines.
The hours Casey put in to start off were HUGE. The store is open 6.30-8.30, 7 days a week… but “Mum and Dad and my sisters all helped”, she says.
They’re doing well…hope they can organise holidays too??