By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on March 23, 2019
THE humble country store has its place in every rural story.
Often the gathering place for farming folk to learn the latest news and gossip while picking up their mail, newspapers and groceries, it remains an important aspect of the country landscape today.
Fairer and fewer they become with regional populations dwindling but one store that has taken a fresh stand against the tests of time is the Narrikup Country Store.
Yesteryear Narrikup resident Sam Jolly constructed the store in 1922 with stone plinth and footings, weatherboard walls painted a rich red colour, a corrugated iron roof and a brick paved floor.
A Shire of Plantagenet Municipal Heritage Inventory document from 1997 described the store as having “an important focus on the business area of the district” during a period when Narrikup was a key area for summer potato crop growing and later, the dairy and beef industries.
The store changed hands 12 times after it was opened in 1923, before it reached current owner Tony Poad.
Mr Poad purchased the business in March last year and after sinking approximately $250,000 into it, reopened the doors on November 23.
Celebrating four months since opening, he reflected on his progress.
Mr Poad said the place was “a mess” when he took over as it had been closed for eight years.
“Starting was very rough,” he said.
“It was so run down, the verandah was falling off and it had a leaky roof.
“So, I insulated it, put in a new kitchen, painted it inside and out, put in a new verandah, rewired it and put in a cool room.”
Mr Poad came across the store when he moved to the district from Wellstead 13 years ago when his children needed to attend high school.
He desired a change of pace from being a builder and decided to take on the challenge of being a shop owner.
Mr Poad recognised and appreciated the value of a country store in a place like Narrikup, where fewer than 500 people reside.
He also saw the effects that the shop’s closed doors had on the community.
“It was pretty sad,” Mr Poad said.
“When I came here, people didn’t know their neighbours.
“I want people to know each other.”
Fellow Narrikup resident Glenys Steel, who has called the district home for 50 years, agreed.
“That was the hub of Narrikup,” she said of the store.
“When it shut for eight years, we lost contact with everyone, and there was no paper or milk or hardware…we had a craft shop there and it had a liquor license…
“It’s great now that Tony has reopened it; it has such huge importance to the community.”
Mr Poad has plenty on the cards for his store.
“The community have been really supportive of me,” he said.
“We had a fish and chips Friday on our first day and 72 people came.
“The next Friday, we had 83.
“So now, we also have Sunday mornings with coffee and croissants.”
Mr Poad wants to start up a monthly car boot sale and quarterly community barbecues to reignite Narrikup as a buzzing and thriving town.
He is in the process of building a photographic timeline of the store’s history and encouraged members of the public to share their photos and information with him.
Mr Poad also wants to install public toilets to encourage tourists to make his shop, and his town, a stop in their travels.
“I have my days but I see the potential of this place,” he said.
“It will get busier the more people know we’re open again.
“I hope to get more tourists to stop here.”