Sally Richardson – The Joys of Running the Local General Store in Forrest
Sally Richardson transformed the modest Forrest General Store two years ago and it is now a vibrant emporium type establishment with good food and a diverse range of gifts and curios for sale.
What brought you to this part of the world?
After having been a communications designer and living overseas and interstate I wasn’t enjoying my job anymore. My first job was working in Brumby’s Bakery in St Kilda and then the Turtle Cafe in Elwood, and I had always enjoyed hospitality and retail and customer service. So I had started looking in Melbourne for some hospitality opportunities but the market was saturated and expensive. None of them felt right in my gut. My sister and her husband then bought a farm in Wurdibuloc, and the first time I came to visit she had run out of wine and asked me to collect some from the Moriac General Store. I walked in there and thought to myself: “I could do something like this”… I then Googled ‘General Stores for sale’ in the south west region of Victoria and the Forrest General Store was the first to come up on realestate.com.au
When I first drove into Forrest I loved the feel of the town, but I was slightly put off by the amount of work I would need to do. After researching Forrest and the area and businesses around I knew in my gut I could make it work. When my architect mate and retired builder father came through they were shocked at how much work needed to be done, and my father said jokingly that if I bought the store he would have me committed.
I always knew I would eventually move to the country and Forrest is such a beautiful place to live.
What do you love about living and running a General Store here in the Otways
I love the local people and have been so lucky to be welcomed into this community. I get to talk with the most varied and interesting people in the area, whether it be the locals, commuters or suppliers. No day is ever the same. There is always something interesting going on. I am never bored. After work I love walking my dogs in the bush and seeing all the different types of native flora and the fauna.
What have been some of your challenges?
After being here for eight months and starting to feel like I knew what I was doing, I found out that I had breast cancer. It was hard being in start-up and then being pushed off to hospital urgently with the family cancer history etc. My parents and the people who worked with me were amazing and took over running the store. At the time I had been working six-seven days a week because I couldn’t afford a lot of staff but they covered me and kept it all going. The locals were so caring and kind to me. I got so many cards, and bunches of flowers, cakes etc. It was truly amazing. As I say to my friends in Melbourne, that wouldn’t have happened up there.
The experience has taught me that even though the business is open 364 days a year, I need to have time off for my own health and life.
What are your hopes for the future?
There is so much more I want to do with the store. I want to expand the bakery function and sell more of our famous sourdough in the area. I am planning to host local producer sampling nights and locals’ dinners. Eventually I hope to sell takeaway wine and beers from the store.