Sometimes dreams are realised in the most unexpected of times and places. Kate Barclay had been dreaming up Bendy St Emporium for over 16 years. After settling down in Canowindra, the balloon capital of Australia four hours west of Sydney, her vision was realised.
Kate swung the doors open on her 100-year old shopfront, keen with desire to give locals and visitors an truly unique shopping experience. Sourcing her wares from a wide variety of sources, including many Life Instyle exhibitors, Kate’s wish is “to provide customers with an experience as well as beautiful products. There is nothing better than finding a treasure, having it carefully wrapped, taking it home and indulging in a gift for oneself or loved ones if they are lucky…”
We do count ourselves as lucky to have chanced upon this gem of a store, and wanted to share a little more of Kate’s story with you.
Tell us a little bit about Bendy St Emporium and how it was established…
Bendy Street Emporium came about after a visit many years ago to some great shops overseas. I got sick of the trend towards franchised, cookie cutter shopping and wanted to create a space where you could get an experience not just “stuff”
I worked in retail for awhile in clothing and really enjoyed it. I love meeting people and hearing their stories. The benefit of being in a country town is we have more time to talk to our customers and as a result I have met some great people.
What I love about the Bendy Street Emporium is that it is always evolving, there is always something new to look at. I really love finding something new, unique and made by designers fresh on the scene rather than stocking things you can get anywhere.
What sets Bendy St Emporium apart from other stores?
I think it is the overall feel of the shop. People love visiting and they don’t feel they have to buy something, there is genuine enjoyment from just being there. I don’t stick to any retail rules. If we want to stop for wine and a cheese plate on a Wednesday then we will. I like to keep the windows fresh and a bit quirky. For Mother’s Day we had a big “Mother” loveheart tattoo in the window that my mother made for me (she was a commercial artist and a very handy asset). The thrill was when the principal of the local Catholic school came to the shop to borrow the Mother tattoo for their church procession.
I welcome artists to show their work on available wall space if I have it and this brings another element to the atmosphere that just fuels creativity and enjoyment.
But the biggest thing I find from the feedback I have had is that people are discovering things they haven’t seen before or haven’t seen in ages. They come across it and it was something dear to them when they were growing up. We have wooden yoyos and cats cradle string kits which have sold really well and 90% went to adults reminiscing.
I also welcome mums and dads with kids. I have a play pen in a corner of the shop with a gate so kids can play safely while parents shop. The shop has plenty of room for prams and there are no dirty looks when kids come in. I have three kids of my own so I know that some days you just need 5 minutes
to look at something without having to chase a toddler.
Customer service is so important and it goes beyond “can I help you?”. I enjoy my customers and get a thrill when I see them using a product they have bought from me. It rained the other day and I saw one of my beautiful French umbrellas being proudly carried down the street. This particular lady had been dying for it to rain just so she could use it – fantastic!
What are your favourite products from Life Instyle exhibitors in the store right now?
I love the ceramics and wooden pieces from Attia, especially their cup and saucer sets. They are so delicate but still functional.
Love by Geneine Honey has been hugely popular and it was so good to get their stock after they had been washed out by the storms in Melbourne. Definitely worth the wait.
Memi Designs is beautiful and I am on my second order from them and will be catching up in Melbourne for more. Beautifully made and the lavender used in the heat packs is amazing.
Why do you choose to attend Life Instyle?
I like that the focus of the suppliers is quality over quantity. It is not a mass produced mentality and you can find some great individual pieces. It is also great to see so many fair trade products as well. No two stands are the same and in most cases you get to speak to the designer themselves which allows you to really get an affinity for the product which in turn makes it easy to sell because you believe in it.
What do you look for in products when selecting new season stock for your store?
Originality and quality.
Right now I’m…
Eating… Ligurian olives with chilli and garlic – like lollies
Drinking… Hamilton’s Bluff 2004 Sangiovese – way too easy to drink.
Reading… Wuthering Heights
Hearing… Sylvie Boisel, a great French singer coming to perform in store for me next week.
Planning… Bastille Day celebrations in the shop and my trip to Melbourne.
Buying… Art and plants for my garden. Also looking for suppliers of aprons, crockery and beach towels among many other things.
Enjoying… Going to work. I love putting the key in the door and putting the bike out the front of the shop and getting settled before going next door and poking my head in the door and having a coffee put in my hand (because in the country everyone knows your name and that you have your coffee with one sugar) then going back to the shop to play.