Lowanna General Store celebrates centenary

Rob and Shell Houlihan and their sons, Aidan and Will, with little Rhyder and Rhiver, their next-door neighbours.

THE Lowanna General Store and Australia Post office celebrated its centenary on Saturday 26 August.

Owners Rob and Shell (Michelle) Houlihan pulled out all stops and put on a party where history was the main topic of conversation.

Park Beach Bowling ClubAdvertise with News of The Area today.
It’s worth it for your business.
Message us.
Phone us – (02) 4981 8882.
Email us – media@newsofthearea.com.au

Ever-generous, Shell thanked everyone for helping gather the community together for the celebrations, with some coming from further afield, but many coming from the village.

The mountain community relies on the shop just as much as it did in the old days, according to the current owner.
“I am here 24/7,” Shell told News Of The Area, “there’s always something to do, someone to serve, or help, or just listen to.”

Around 50 minutes’ drive from Coffs, the road is winding and beset with chances of closure from natural causes, or roadworks – meaning locals treasure their all-encompassing general store.

Rebuilt on the present site in 1923, after a fine destroyed the former store, the business has flourished and dwindled over the century, with owners bringing on a range of offerings.

The original owners were the Butlers.

Marilyn Statham, who owned the store with her late husband, Tony, for 16 years, selling it in 1984, told News Of The Area, “We bought the shop from Tess and Dick who owned it through the 1960s, and served a thriving community in the timber industry.

“We sold petrol and oil, cow feed and kerosene, as well as the shop goods.”

For Barry and Deb Mannall, owners from around 1985 to 1990, they made their mark adding diesel, produce and the bank agency.

“We also offered cement, bulk fertiliser and contract work; the Box Car Café building on the side of the shop was full of stock feeds and rural goods,” Barry told NOTA.

Acquiring the shop from Julie McDonald, Rob and Shell bought the general store in 2017 and worked a hand-over year together.

Shell has market gardening in her veins, being the great granddaughter of Roy and Ruby Wong, who had the first market stall at Haymarket and Flemington markets in Sydney.

“My descendants came to Australia in the early 1800s in the gold rush,” Shell told NOTA.

“I grew up in the general store at the end of our farm in south Granville, from the 1940s through until 1988.

“My Irish Grandmother had the general store in Surry Hills and used to tell us that the tram stopped right outside and businessmen would come in and buy their fresh vegetables that came from our market garden.

“Today at Lowanna we do the mail run for the whole of the mountain five days a week.

“I am the Post Mistress, licensee and we’re open seven days a week.”

The store is described as the ‘heart of the town’ and through Rob and Shell’s tenure they have risen to the called-upon responsibilities, from supporting the community through devastating bushfires to having a listening ear and cuppa for an in-need resident.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to look after everyone,” said Shell, who is also mother of two teenage boys, Aidan, 18, and Will, 13.

“It was so lovely to see so many past owners and grateful locals, who have all become our friends and extended family, celebrating the store’s 100th birthday,” she said.


Leave a Reply