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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

The changing face of retailing in Mullumbimby

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Aslan Shand

Five years ago there were plenty of empty shops in Mullumbimby and there were several ways that local businesses looked at reviving the town.

‘Mullum is unique, it is a very community-based town with lots of diverse people and businesses,’ said president of the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce Janelle Stanford, who also runs the Mullum Newsagency.

Stanford said, ‘One of the reasons we started the Mullum Chamber five years ago was because there were around eleven empty shops in the town. It was important to come together and look at how we make the town thrive.’

At about the same time longtime local business operators John Waterhouse and Jo Newman, who own Mullum InStyle Living, could also see a need for new businesses at the post office end of town as there were seven or eight empty shops.

Ms Newman says, ‘We had a successful Allure Home and Lifestyle shop in Murwillumbah and decided that this would be a great opportunity to start something like this in Mullumbimby and rejuvenate that end of the town. We were worried the town was struggling with shops being empty.’

As the town burgeoned with new shops opening, they decided it was time to meld Allure into Mullum In Style Living, but they wanted to see a good local shop take their place.

‘We traded really, really well over the years but with the influx of new shops selling similar quality products we decide it was time to meld the two businesses under the one roof,’ Ms Newman says.

‘We wanted to see a good local shop take the place of Allure and Made in Mullum seemed like the perfect fit.

‘They have a good range of things in the store. We are really happy to support them and have left them some of our fixtures and fittings, and gave them lots of support to take over the lease.’

Made In Mullum have also been able to ensure that local beauty salon, Infinite Beauté, has been able to remain operating out of the rear of the shop.

While Byron has been facing the challenges of franchise businesses moving in and ever-increasing rents over the last twenty years, Mullum is now coming under similar pressures.

‘In our town, diversity is important,’ said Ms Stanford.

Landlords’ role

‘The role of landlords and the choices they make in the level of rent and the types of businesses they lease to can have a significant influence over how a town develops.

‘For landlords, it is really important to know what is going on in the town and to keep a finger on the pulse.

‘Our landlord Chris Mallam does, and doesn’t increase our rent when there is an economic downturn, for example.

‘He’s only ever a phone call away.’

With a number of commercial properties recently changing hands there have been reports of significant rent increases for many local Mullum businesses as previously reported in The Echo

‘Both commercially and privately, there has been a change in attitude and there has been a steady increase in the cost of rentals,’ said Helen Adams, who ran one of Mullum’s first art galleries, the Mullumbimby Arts Gallery.

While money might be the sole motivator for some, Cristina Sharratt from Made In Mullum has pointed out that some of the local real estate agents and landlords have a longer perspective on the health of the town and its future.

Ms Sharratt, who also works at The Echo, said, ‘They are keeping in mind that it is important to give local businesses a chance as they recognise that putting a franchise in from Sydney or Brisbane reduces the money going back into the local community.’

Community reinvestment

‘Businesses like Made In Mullum keep the money in the local area through rent, shopping and reinvestment in their local community and locally made products.’

Longtime Made In Mullum member Lally Marshall agrees. She says, ‘Collectives like this are what Mullumbimby is all about, providing a platform for our creative heart to thrive.’

‘Since Made In Mullum started in 2011, the collective has supported more than forty small local handmade businesses and has been going from strength to strength.’

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