Saving Colbinabbin’s store

By Jamieson Salter

The Colbinabbin community has banded together to raise $400 000 to secure the future of its general store.

The money was required by the deadline of Sunday, March 1, to form a co-operative that would purchase and renovate the Colbinabbin general store.

The town hopes to preserve the store and allow the owners — who have been running the shop alone for six years — to move on.

The idea aimed to mimic the success of the Lockington Hotel, which had 94 shareholders save the hotel from closing its doors.

Based on such local success stories, a town meeting was held at Colbinabbin's public hall to start pledges to purchase the general store, with about 100 people in attendance.

Colbinabbin resident Matt McEvoy spent every waking moment phoning people with links to Colbinabbin in an attempt to recruit about 150 investors.

“It takes a lot of effort and energy through phone calls, emails, meetings; pouring through different sets of information to make sure we have all bases covered,” Mr McEvoy said.

Mr McEvoy did not grow up in Colbinabbin but said the exercise gave him insight into the economy of the town, relative to other communities.

“Communities only stay vibrant and full of life if you keep putting time and energy back into them,” he said.

Mr McEvoy played for the Colbinabbin football and netball club for seven years and has now chosen to raise his family in the town.

Colbinabbin general store owner Shirleyann Hughes only planned to run the store for five years, but had difficulty finding a buyer for it.

“The community seem really keen and they all love their town just like we do, we just need to have a break,” Ms Hughes said.

“We'll continue on and wait until the store is bought, we're not going to close the doors.”

The community will now create a business plan to purchase the store, and hopes to have contracts signed within 10 weeks.

An ex-employee of the Colbinabbin store, Melva Adams from Nanneella, worked there for nine years, starting in 1970 aged 16.

The store was open seven days a week and, aside from the owners, Mrs Adams was the only helping hand.

“We delivered groceries to farmers with the mail run and on the Wednesday we did a grocery run out to Rushworth,” Ms Adams said.

Today the store is still the post office and source of daily essentials including milk, cereal and canned goods.

Lockington community hotel chairman Terry Malone said his business planned to open its accommodation for the first time in years, thanks to community shareholders.

“It created a real buzz around the town to have something the people feel ownership of,” Mr Malone said.