Until recently, the Scullin shops looked (from the outside) like a bit of a ghost town.
Locals and those in the know knew that while the supermarket might have shut down, the community was still humming along in the background. They knew to explore the hidden treasures at Another Chance, one of the best op shops in Canberra (hidden behind a medical practice). And while Sue no longer owns the restaurant, Sue’s Kitchen has some of the best value Chinese food in Canberra – plus some of the friendliest service.
But outwardly, it all looked pretty dead and forlorn.
I run a small AirBnB that is next door to the shops, and have been watching signs of redevelopment through the Scullin Community Group on Facebook. Around six months ago, I began to sense a mood of expectation, of good things coming.
First was the announcement that there would be coffee at the Scullin shops. Coffee! And good coffee at that. Cafe Bolivar opened an outdoors food van before Easter, transforming the courtyard into an almost festive carnival feel.
Then came the news that there would be somewhere to sit down to enjoy the coffee.
Scullin Traders opened in early May. It is a shop, yet not a shop. It sells things but it doesn’t feel like a commercial shop where you are pressured to make your sale quickly and leave. In short, it is a community enterprise that is staffed by volunteers.
Yes, volunteers. It seems a novel concept, but it is enabling people not only to connect with the community, but to learn new skills as well. One of my friends, Nicole, is an active volunteer. As a single mum wanting to transition back to full time work, the opportunity is allowing her to develop new skills and get out and about.
And it’s not just people wanting to get back into the work force. Tara Cheyne MP spent a day volunteering there recently. “It’s all about getting people here,” she said. “I bet if you asked most people, they would say they have expanded their friends lists and now know and recognize more people in their neighbourhood.”
Cofounded by Sue White and Rachel Howard, Scullin Traders was started with a $5,000 grant from the ACT Chief Minister. The shop fitout, complete with comfy armchairs and a retro looking book corner, cost $3,000.
Much of the funky, homestyle look was styled by Emily Brindley from Sweet Bones Cafe.
Scullin Traders stocks a range of locally produced products – everything from food, books, flowers, hand knitted beanies, jewellery, plants and art work.
On entering, the wow factor is definitely the beautiful flower bouquets from Chemical-free Flowers. These look and feel like homegrown flowers – because in most cases they are – grown by Louise Alison at her home garden in Wamboin. The beauty of the flowers is so totally different to the often depressingly similar mass produced flowers you see in supermarkets.
For residents living nearby, the Scullin Traders offers a bespoke food experience. You can buy Piallago bacon, Sonoma sourdough bread and free range eggs. You can also order a box of quality produce from Japanese farmers outlet Choku Bai Jo online, and pick it up at the shops.
Already, the Scullin Traders is reforming the shops into a vibrant meeting place. Have you been there yet?
What: Scullin Traders
Where: Scullin shops