Stocking all things beautiful & practical in Nundle
Always pausing a moment longer on every post, admiring the gorgeous collection of kitchen and garden wares, exquisitely presented and beautifully captured in every post. So where is the Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores you ask? In a little town called Nundle!
Ok, so we were a little sad to learn at first that it wasn’t just 10 mins down the road, but on learning more it makes complete sense that a 120-year old General Store would be located in one of NSW's most beautiful little country towns.
Nundle is only three and a half hours drive from Newcastle, technically making it a day trip, and there is of course more than just one reason to visit Nundle. We spoke to Megan Trousdale, owner of the Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores about why everyone needs to visit Nundle and her gorgeous store.
Hh: Megan you moved to Nundle in 1998, what brought you to the town?
Duncan and I were looking to move out of Sydney, keen for some acres to grow some of our own food, live closely with nature and the seasons, and a country childhood for our daughter Isabelle, then five. We had been living in Sydney’s inner west, but we’d both grown up near Camden on Sydney’s rural fringe, so we wanted more of that, but Camden had moved on and become part of Sydney.
We travelled around NSW, sometimes as part of my job as a magazine journalist, contemplating Berry, Taralga, Rylestone…but we kept coming back to Nundle. It was less developed and more affordable than a lot of other towns we visited, but only 45 minutes drive from Tamworth, which is a thriving major regional centre if we needed extra services. Nundle has a healthy, proactive community, collaborating to ensure the sustainability of the town, while keeping the peace, quiet, space and beauty.
Hh: It was quite a sea change, were there any moments of 'What have we done'?
Never. Initially, we thought we’d give it five years and then talk about whether it was a good idea. We never needed that conversation. Within five years we were so embedded in the community, we can hardly remember living anywhere else. Now 18 years into life in Nundle, it is well and truly home.
Hh: How did the ownership of the Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores come about?
On one of my first visits to Nundle I researched a story about what the community was doing to revive the town and keep businesses and services like police, the primary school, petrol station. Judy Howarth showed me an empty shop in the main street and photographer John Fryz and I were amazed. We thought, ‘One of us has to do something with this’. I came back with Duncan and we kept thinking about the building. We made a phone call and asked if we could take it on.
Initially, we ran it as an art gallery, but it became clear very quickly that people were very interested in the history of the building. We ran with that and went back to the building’s original purpose, a general merchants, and name, Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores, using handwritten ledgers as inspiration for buying stock. A descendant of the founders, Tony McClelland, who worked in the business until the mid 1970’s, recently bought from our online store and wrote a note, ‘I can’t believe I am buying from my old shop’.
Hh: The business is called Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores, was there more than one back in the day?
The word Stores come from its original meaning as bulk storage for goods, all the essentials of flour, sugar, tea and more. In its hey day Odgers and McClelland sold an extraordinarily diverse range of goods from fabric to farm machinery, sometimes from a catalogue.
Hh: The building itself has a long and fascinating history, more than 120 years, can you tell us a little bit about its former life?
So many Nundle people have memories of shopping at or even working at Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores. Customers would ring in orders for groceries and farm supplies, and they would be delivered by bicycle or on the mail run. A couple of past employees, now in their seventies and eighties, come into the store regularly and are happy to see the building being used and the name revived.
Many of the fittings in the store are original, shelves made from timber packing cases, vermin proof flat tin walls, with the manufacturer’s stamps ‘Australia Made in England’, ‘Little’s Poison Sheep Dip’. In other parts of the store there are calculations handwritten in pencil on the flat tin wall, or significant events written on timber, drought, rain, births, deaths, the purchase of a Holden car. We respect the history of the store and the memories of people who share its past.
Hh: Your collection of home and garden wares is quite a unique one, how would you describe the store's collection?
The history of the store is the first inspiration when we are buying. Some of our earliest stock lines can be traced to the masses of paperwork that came with the building, suitcases of invoices, statements and catalogues. We stock loose leaf tea stored in 1kg hand-stencilled timber boxes, handmade soap, cut from the slab, and Falcon and Romanian enamelware in patterns that haven’t changed since the 1920’s.
The other inspiration is how we live, growing and cooking food from our garden, using gardening and cleaning tools made-to-last from natural materials, millet brooms, horse and goat hair, and Tampico fibre brushware, and enjoyment of stand-the-test-of-time, elegant, simple design, like Mason Cash caneware ceramic mixing bowls or cast iron cookware.
Hh : When you first took on the store did you see it as a bit of a risk stocking it with such a bespoke offering given Nundles population is just 300?
We were in our late 20’s, young, and optimistic. We didn’t think of risk. We were so focused on being true to the history of the store and relevant to our country community, that we never contemplated we could be making a big mistake. Duncan has always said opportunities exist on the margins. It wasn’t a huge risk because of where we are. When we were renting it was a very achievable rent and we stocked the shop with an initial spend of $3,000.
Eventually we bought the building at an affordable price and the stock level evolved slowly and organically as we could expand. We always knew the success of our business relied on visitors from around a three hour radius, which is huge drawing area taking in Newcastle to Tenterfield and Port Macquarie to Moree. Four years ago we started our online store, so now our customer are Australia-wide, with the occasional international order.
Coincidentally, our post September 11 and GFC culture is more in synch with a simpler way of life, gentler on the environment. A new generation is discovering growing and cooking food, preserving, pickling, and cleaning with natural materials and elbow grease rather than chemicals. This fits our emphasis on utilitarian, practical, household goods, made of natural materials, at affordable prices.
Hh: What do you love most about living in Nundle?
I love that I can be home in less than five minutes drive, sometimes without passing another car. I can be home to have afternoon tea with our sons Cormac, 11, and Gryff, 8, when they arrive home from school, we have the time to cook healthy food from scratch from the garden, walk our dog in the paddock, and Duncan can throw in a fishing line in the Peel River across the road from our house.
There is a lot of enjoyment of the physical space of the surrounding farmland and beauty of the Great Dividing Range, the seasonal changes, whether it’s a windfall of wild apples, figs, or field mushrooms, gold and red autumn leaves, snow on the range, or spring blossom. This summer we discovered kayaking and we have been exploring Chaffey and Sheba Dams, and fooling around on our small farm dam. It is the freedom to live creatively at a slower pace, spend more time with our children, enjoy working with our hands in the garden, and contribute to the community.
Hh: If curious travellers were to come for a visit what are your top 5 things to do in Nundle?
1. Explore boutique businesses: It is so relaxing to be able to explore independent boutique businesses like Nundle Woollen Mill, Sacs on Jenkins, Nundle Art Gallery, Jenkins Street Antiques and Fine China, Ratter’s Flat Antiques, and Nundle Country Trader. Just out of town there’s Cottage on the Hill Patchwork Barn.
2. Eat local produce: We are very proud of Arc-en-ciel Trout Farm at nearby Hanging Rock. You can visit the farm or buy their award-winning whole trout, trout fillets, pate and gravlax at the Nundle Friendly Grocer or Café Nundle on the Park. It’s also on the menu at The Peel Inn. On weekends Nundle Craft Inc is a hive of activity as local in the know stock up on homegrown vegetables and plants, and homemade baked goods, jams and condiments. From Friday April 28 to Sunday May 7, Destination Tamworth holds its annual food festival, Taste Tamworth, and Arc-en-ciel Trout Farm is part of the Farm Gate Trail.
3. Take in the history: The newly refurbished Nundle Court House Museum, open weekends, is a treasure trove of locally sourced domestic artefacts, and photographs telling the history of Nundle. Mount Misery Gold Mine Museum includes a recreated gold mine providing insight into life on the goldfields.
4. Spend time in nature: There are so many opportunities to take in the fresh air, birdlife, and peace and quiet of nature in and around Nundle. The Nundle CWA created a river walk beside the Peel River, then there’s Hanging Rock Lookout with vistas of the Peel Valley towards Tamworth, Five Mile Walk passing gold mines carved into the hillside, and a monthly bushwalk with Nundle Bushwalking Club.
5. Listen to live music: Nundle is lucky to have three professional musicians, Golden Guitar winner John Krsulja, Jeff Gibson, and Rachel Webster. They perform and bring other musicians to town during the Tamworth Country Music Festival for Nundle Rocks and Country at The Dag Sheep Station in January, Nundle Country Picnic in March, Nundle Go For Gold Chinese Easter Festival, Hats Off to Country in July and other times throughout the year to play at The Peel Inn.
Photo Credit: Ben Urquhart, Kings & Thieves