From Sydney to Chudleigh, Mandy Wyer finds old-school community in small town Tasmania.
A bold decision in 2019, to leave the thriving metropolis of Sydney and become a shopkeeper in a small town 64kms west of Launceston, is paying off for Chudleigh General Store owner, Mandy Wyer.
Mandy left a corporate career as a journalist, working with lawyers on human rights issues, to ensconce herself in the simplicity of running a little shop at the foothills of the Great Western Tiers.
Born in Sydney, Mandy took to the road early, home schooled in a campervan across three continents from the age of six to nine. She believes it was these formative years that helped cement a comfort with throwing herself into new, challenging situations.
After work experience with the Sydney Morning Herald, Mandy drove up Australia’s east coast in search of a journalism cadetship. She secured one while digging for gems in Emerald, Central Queensland. The job was at The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, but it wasn’t long after completing the cadetship, that a new opportunity arose to teach English in Japan and Mandy jumped at that chance, yet again. Since then, she has worked on a variety of magazines and newspapers, NSW Police and with legal, human rights organisations.
“My previous career was stimulating, but the media has changed so much – with a lot of white noise on the internet – and I really didn’t want to be part of that anymore,” she said.
As a sole trader, and with the new restrictions and challenges of the pandemic, Mandy has closed her café temporarily, while she resurfaces some of the kitchen to better protect customers. She has, however, kept the grocery side of the business operating to ensure locals have a supply of essential items. Mandy is planning to fully reopen the café in late November or early December.
“Prior to moving down here, I jokingly told my husband that as the kids weren’t moving out of home anytime soon, I would. I think everyone was a bit shocked, including myself, when I actually did. But I was getting bogged down in Sydney, at the time. So, when this 1886 village store presented on the internet, I saw an opportunity to buy myself employment and better support my family. It was when I hit Scenic Point, just before entering the lush Chudleigh Valley, with mountains behind, that I knew I had done the right thing.”
Mandy is a great lover of history and nostalgia and wants to bring the shop back to its former glory. “Prior to COVID, I removed a stud wall added in the 1970s, which revealed an original open fireplace hiding behind wallboard. I feel this hearth is the heart of the building and will feature in the café when it reopens. Eventually, I would also like to replicate the beautiful, original staircase, which was ripped from the building and now lives in a converted church down the road.”
Mandy says it is difficult to sustain a living selling a few grocery items in the store, now that Coles and Woolworths deliver, so she is building on the café’s nostalgia to add to the dining experience. Prior to the pandemic, the shop hosted two successful music events – one off the back deck in the garden with 100 people and the other with about 60 people inside the store. It also helped raise more than $600 for a charity event as part of International Women’s Day. Mandy plans to continue to build on the shops success and run more events, particularly those tailored to the needs of locals, who aren’t just her customers, but friends she socialises with.
“I want this wonderful building to be returned to its former glory and continue to be what it always has been, the nerve centre for information and events in and around this wonderful little village. I think the world ‘progress’ is a misnomer. Give me the simple, good ol’ days anytime. Here, people talk face-to-face rather than on the internet and mow your lawn as a kindness. What once drew people to cities- that feeling of connection is repelling people from them, now. Chudleigh, which is lovingly referred to as, ‘the centre of the universe’ really is a remarkable place. It is all about community and my life is so much better by being a part of it.”
Find out more about Chudleigh General Store.
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