• Loddon Herald

Comeback town

THERE’S community optimism that Tarnagulla is one the comeback trail.

Local community volunteer Harold Shipston is among those bouyed by the town’s resurgence.

He points to more activites at the community centre and the new local cafe.

“The town is on the comeback trail boasting two new shops and an increasingly popular camping area at the recreational reserve and reservoir and many new and revived activities to bring townsfolk and tourists together are planned for the future,” Harold said,

One of those new shops opened last Thursday when Kelly Whitton and Grant Hartskeerl realised their business dream.

“We moved to Tarnagulla in Easter 2017 with our three children. Two at the time attended the local primary school and the oldest travelled to Bendigo for high school,” Kelly said.

When they arrived in Tarnagulla, Grant had been a chef for almost 30 years and worked in many different restaurants and clubs, Kelly had 23 years’ experience working for a confectionery, snacks and beverage wholesaler in both Geelong and Bendigo.

“In 2019 we came up with the idea of opening a store to cater for the locals and travellers in our town and applied to the (Loddon Shire) council,” Kelly said.

“We were classified as a convenience store as we are offering groceries, take away food, gifts, fresh fruit and vegetables and meat.”

In 2020 Kelly and Grant started providing school lunches for the local primary school.

“Healthy options is our main focus as well as the use of reusable containers to lessen the amount of packaging going to landfill. We also started a delivery service of our groceries, meat and fresh fruit and vegetables which was welcomed during the COVID-19 pan-demic. Grant was also busy creating meals which we also delivered.”

During COVID, Kelly and Grant were also busy breathing new life into one of the historic buildings along the main road, Commercial Road.

“The real estate lady who sold us this house said it was originally a lemonade factory. Since then we have been told it was a butcher, a bric-a-brac shop and more recently an antiques and collectables store,” she said.

And last Thursday, it became a grocery store.

“After completing all the requirements for the council, we were able to have our grand opening and now allow people to shop in-store,” Kelly said.

“We have had so many positive comments and really appreciate the support that both locals and travellers have given us.

“People are amazed how much stock we have fitted into the shop area - it’s from floor to ceiling.”

Kelly and Grant’s investment is far removed from the local landscape of a few years ago.

Harold Shipston said: “The town was losing its shops, activities and its churches. Sports clubs had joined with other towns and eventually ceased to exist here. The only shops that survived this slowing period were the pub, post office and a café that opened only on the weekends.

“The caravan park had closed and with it the fuel outlet that supplied the town,”

Enter 2021 and the outlook has changed.

Kelly Whitton can sense it among people coming into the Tarnagulla Supply Store in its first week of trading.

“We’ve had so many lovely comments, positive comments ... and the kids love our stock of lollies,” she said.

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