COMMENT

Muswellbrook locals have their say on dream additions to town's shopping options

ANY VACANCIES: Residents are calling for a range of different shops and food outlets to set up in Muswellbrook.
ANY VACANCIES: Residents are calling for a range of different shops and food outlets to set up in Muswellbrook.

IT'S natural to want what you can't have and, in Muswellbrook, locals have revealed what kind of new shops and eateries they would like to see around town.

The Chronicle asked residents what they desired, and the response painted a pretty clear picture of what people perceive to be holes in the market.

While many understood it is difficult to attract, and then keep, businesses in rural areas, there was a strong indication that certain shops would get decent support.

Among the most popular suggestions were a shoe shop, fruit and vegetable market and a bakery - the latter of which was strongly agreed with by a particular hungry journalist.

The town has had all three of those before, but none have survived, and the recent closure of The Old Tea House has left residents with nowhere to buy home-made pastries.

While it's possible that another could open in the not-so-distant future, there were some requests that fit more in the "dream" category.

Kmart was heavily mentioned, although with Big W already here and a lack of obvious space for another large retail store, the likelihood of the Westfarmers-owned business setting up shop in Muswellbrook isn't too high.

Bunnings, which would presumably stretch all the way to its Singleton edition, such is the size of their warehouses, was also proposed as an addition.

Although concerns were raised about how that would affect other local businesses such as Aberdeen Nursery and Home Timer & Hardware Muswellbrook.

In terms of eateries, there was a strong call for a kid-friendly cafe (presumably a locally-run one without Ronald McDonald), where parents could relax and children had the room and resources to remain entertained.

The award-winning Gerard's Place in Denman was used as an example by one resident as the type of new restaurant they'd like to see, while others seemed keen on somewhere that specialised in Italian cuisine - I mean, who can resist good pasta.

A cafe in Muswellbrook Marketplace was also in high demand, and it should therefore come as music to people's ears that management at the shopping centre has confirmed one will soon begin trading in the food court.

But any new addition to the town would need to be adequately supported and marketed, which is something that Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mike Kelly said had been an issue in the past.

"The problem is the business model for those businesses," he stated.

"Everything is so competitive now, you don't just want another operator.

"You need a good operator, you need people who really understand their market and how to structure a business to satisfy it."

He also said while it would be excellent to see no more vacancies, there was little the chamber itself could do to attract enterprises to the town, and the best way to improve business confidence was to support the ones we currently have.

Ultimately the key lesson out of this process is that if locals want something new, we have to appreciate what we currently have.

And, as someone with an insatiable desire for coffee (also known as a journalist), I would like to think that I'm doing my part.

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