THE Wangoom community’s annual Christmas party on Friday night was also a celebration of the people power that has kept the small community’s general store a vibrant hub.
The party was also a way of thanking Wangoom General Store operators Les and Jill Trotter, whose dedication to its operation has played a big part in keeping the community-owned store a district focus.
A big effort by the Wangoom community in 2004 to keep the 130-year-old store operating led to the formation of the Wangoom Co-operative that bought the building and attached house.
The Trotters have run the business for the past six years and Mrs Trotter said it had been a labour of love.
The couple has worked seven days a week for most of the past six years, with Mrs Trotter only this year taking her first week off.
Mrs Trotter said they enjoyed their work and had transformed the store.
“Wangoom is a great community,” she said.
However, Mr Trotter, 70, and Mrs Trotter, 67, will step down as the general store’s operators early next year and hand over the role to Mrs Trotter’s son Andrew Templeton and his wife Ricarda, of Portland.
The community marked the imminent change by commissioning “A Snapshot in Time” photo of past and present Wangoom district residents who had gathered for the Christmas get-together on Friday night.
Wangoom Co-operative chairman Jack Melican said the photo would celebrate the community support that had allowed the store to keep operating.
It would also recognise the Trotters’ work that enabled the co-operative’s purchase of the store to be a great success.
The Trotters’ friendly dealings with customers, their great work ethic and business skills in adding a gift shop and tea rooms to the store and post office trade had made it a viable business, Mr Melican said.
They had developed the store’s country charm to attract bus groups and other visitors.
While six other stores within 15 kilometres of Warrnambool had closed during the past 10 years, the Wangoom General Store had remained viable, Mr Melican said.
The Wangoom Co-operative owns the store’s freehold and uses profits from its trading to carry out maintenance and improvements on the exterior and nearby house, as well as pay off a loan that helped fund the buildings’ purchase.