Join us in farewelling this Lake Mac institution | 12 Feb
Last week, homewares sanctuary, Common Circus, announced that it would be closing its doors after almost ten years. The original Lake Macquarie spot overlooking the water in Belmont has become a regular haunt for locals and visitors, but after much consideration, owner Lauren Henry is saying goodbye to the Belmont community.
Almost a decade has passed and the Belmont venue has been a space for people to gather and share their big (and little) life moments. From a child’s first babycino to a couple’s rooftop engagement spot, Common Circus in Belmont has been home to some really beautiful stories.
We thought it only fair to catch up with Lauren and hear all about what brought her to this decision, what exactly this means for the future of Common Circus, and what Belmont locals can expect from that waterfront spot (hint: you’ll still be able to get your coffee).
Last Monday, you shared a very candid post on Instagram announcing that the Belmont space would be closing. How are you feeling a week on?
I’m feeling pretty good now. Whilst I dropped that bomb on social media on Monday, I’m actually a year and a half into having that conversation with myself. Now, whilst I’m sad to say goodbye to Belmont, I’m actually really excited and energised for the year ahead.
So, you’ve been thinking about waving goodbye to Lake Macquarie for quite some time – that’s a long time to be sitting on a big business decision. Talk me through that…
It’s still successful, and to walk away from something that brings such great support to the Common Circus brand seemed silly. I was told to just keep it and let it run itself whilst I focus on Hamilton.
I was listening to a podcast one day, and it just dawned on me – I couldn’t just let it run itself, and why should I?
I’ve carried so much guilt around not giving Belmont the energy it deserved for years. I’ve run the two spaces for almost three years and I was just cooked. Last year was one of the most challenging years I have ever had.
I’m not a very physically healthy person when I am pregnant, and that affects me mentally. Once I gave birth in June, I went straight into feeling guilty that I had neglected my business during that time.
It just caught up with me. I was doing a lot and none of it I was doing particularly well. So, I made the call to walk away from it.
There was a lot of discussion in my head –how do you walk away from a business that is successful? How do you hand over the reins of your baby to someone else?
What I realised is that it came down to the fear of walking away from something that is successful and losing the ego. That is no way to live, and no way to make a decision. From there, it was easy. I have never chased ego, and making that decision was simple.
Did you find yourself coming back to the original reason you decided to start the business?
I’m a workaholic, and I built Common Circus to enjoy my work. I started to ask the question: what really makes me happy? I wanted a big space where I could do what I wanted, and I have that – but what was I chasing?
It became quite clear once I started discussing closing the space with my husband because every day we would realise another positive that would come from closing Belmont. It was obvious it was going to be the right decision.
The hardest part is doing something for yourself, which then in turn impacts others. That makes you get lost, and you lose that clarity.
I realised last year that I truly do believe that you can’t have it all, and that’s not a negative. I had some really hard truths about motherhood and business come to me last year.
There are so many things the general public doesn’t see when it comes to running a small business and you covered some of those difficult topics in your Instagram post – how has this affected you moving forward in the business?
My husband is the primary carer and has been off since Dusty was born. We’ve been really lucky in that, but also, my husband is the breadwinner and he’s off, so I knew I had to pull my socks up and work.
I love work and I was so not capable when I was pregnant, so to be able to get back into it was great. We got to December and it was just too much. It’s all the little things people don’t see – we had six fridges die within a two-week period. It’s all these little things that happen, that you don’t even remember happening because you have to react straight away. It all adds up.
I just got to the point where it was all too much and I was going to crack it.
I think because of social media, businesses could have well over 100K followers, but it could still only be a one man show. Nobody sees the backend of that.
We only share these little snippets of our work lives, but in reality, it’s tricky. I want to have more conversations around reality. I do think we all, myself included, make assumptions about what other people's lives are like. We’re all striving for something that doesn’t actually exist.
Once you put that out there on Monday, how has the reaction affected you?
I’ve been trying to have ‘morning therapy’ in Belmont every morning to catch that regular morning trade. It’s been quite interesting. I’ve had people crying in front of me and I think I’m still in a bit of shock with that.
At the start of this transition, I was telling myself that I just needed to get through the next two weeks – to just make it to the 12th of February.
But what I’ve realised from having these conversations, is that I am meant to learn a lot from this process. I’m meant to sit in it and grow from it and then understand what to do with that knowledge moving into the future.
I decided I didn’t want to look back and think I rushed through this period to try to get to 2024. I didn’t want to leave it without a) getting what I needed to get out of it, but also b) celebrating what we made there and understanding why it was so significant.
Ten years is a long time and there have been a lot of significant moments in peoples’ lives, like births, deaths, marriages, divorces, illnesses, friendships, relationships, etc. Everyone has been sharing their stories and the memories that have been created there.
It's about the significance of things that have happened in people’s lives, that are then attached to that space. It’s the conversations that have happened in that space and the fact that we’ve created that environment where people want to linger and stay.
Common Circus’ last day in Belmont will be Monday, 12th of February 2024 – what does the next two weeks look like for you?
I’ll be there as much as I physically can over the next two weeks, to be present with our regulars but also to support my staff through that.
We will start to take out all of the retail side of things over the next two weeks, so that will be completely gone by the 12th.
I’ll be working closely with Glee Coffee Roasters leading up to them taking over the space. Whilst I haven't sold the business, I’ve sold them our equipment and they’ll be running their own cafe from that space.
We’ll be wrapping things up at 4pm on Monday, 12th of February, and the team at Glee is hoping to open on the 13th as Good One.
They don’t currently have any cafes themselves, but they have had them in the past and they know how special that community is in Belmont.
After the 12th of February, what does the future of Common Circus look like?
I’m really excited for the Hamilton space – there is so much potential here and I have some pretty big goals. I am striving for Common Circus to be one of the best retail stores in Australia, like others. We’re already on our way there, it just needs some focus on it.
Hamilton is a retail and creative space that has coffee that complements. Belmont was the complete opposite. I want this to be the destination that I know it can be.
I’m ten years in, and now is my time to shine. I’ve done my hard yards and I’ll still always do the dirty work but it’s also the time for me to dream big.
I’ve had a bit of a shift in mindset. What I realised is that even though Belmont is significant, I don’t think it will be the most significant part of my business journey. Without taking away from what that is, I think it’s a stepping stone for what the next ten years look like.
Make your way into Common Circus in Belmont for its last hurrah until Monday, 12th of February and say goodbye to the Belmont crew.