Camperdown just keeps 'chugging along'

ABOUT 30 years ago Camperdown lost its abattoir, its Country Road clothing manufacturing business, and the butter factory shut its doors.

This combination of setbacks could have been a disaster for the rural community but as the former mayor of the town, Ian Judd, said – “Camperdown just seems to keep chugging along”.

So much so that in more recent times the town has carved out a niche market for those on the hunt for antiques and collectables.

Mr Judd was mayor for three terms and started on the Camperdown council in the mid 1980s. He was a councillor for 11 years.

He said the huge interest in antiques and collectables was a real asset for the town.

Mr Judd said the arrival of Woolworths about 10 years ago had helped with the day-to-day survival of Camperdown.

“I’ve had a theory in my life that when I’ve thought of something as a terrible time, well, one door closes and another opens.”

Mr Judd said when the abbaitoir was closing the council received a bomb threat and tensions were high.

“You think about all those jobs going, but Camperdown just keeps going,” he said.

“People don’t go out to just shop. It’s an experience. They have lunch, they visit the shops.”

For wheeler and dealer Lawrie Voutier, who has had his demolition business in Camperdown for about three and a half years, the new businesses in town might be cut from the same cloth, but they all offer something unique.

The interest in Mr Voutier’s work is such that he has starred in the Foxtel series Demolition Man.

“We sell an array of stuff,” he said.

“The price might be a bit of tin for $1 to a cupboard worth $1000. We don’t sell a lot of high end stuff, though.”

Mr Voutier said the new businesses were great for Camperdown and would bring more money and people to the town.

“They’re all different types of shops but in a similar vein,” he said.

“It’s a fabulous looking town. I hope all the shops are doing well. It’s not as flash as Warrnambool.”

In August last year Cynthia Crompton decided it was “now or never” and opened her shop The Lakes’ Hunter & Gatherer.

With a long history in antiques, the gamble has paid off with Mrs Crompton saying the business had been very well received by the community and beyond

The self-proclaimed hunter and gatherer has built up a following on Instagram and said people regularly travelled from out of town to shop.

“My husband is a GP and we moved here six years ago and that was his now or never moment,” she said. She said her passion lay in the history, design and architecture of her second-hand products.

“They’re each from a specific area and time and I find that fascinating,” she said.

Over at Mammoth Mart, owners Diane and Gary Clissold have had the business for 30 years and said they welcomed the new additions to town.

Known for it’s somewhat iconic blue mammoth on the roof, Mrs Clissold said the antique component had been an add-on to an already well-established business.

The shop also has a nursery, bric-a-brac and second-hand furniture.

“We can’t complain, it puts food on the table,” Mrs Clissold said.

“We take any competition as a good thing. This time of year our nursery is busy and in the winter months it’s more second-hand furniture.

“We’re definitely seeing more people stopping from out of town.

“This is the sort of town that just keeps going ahead and plodding along.

“We’ll be here till we retire.”

Although it is yet to officially open, the Leura Hotel has also become home to a large collection of antiques.

Antiques dealer Brian O’Halloran said the building, owned by Mr Voutier, was the ideal location given its historic charm.

“We were looking for a place worthy of setting up our items,” he said.

“I think it’s one of the finest hotel buildings of any country town.”

Mr O’Halloran also has plans to establish a 41-room boutique accommodation, a small wine bar and a coffee lounge for clients.

He said he was looking to sell more artwork along with antiques, period furniture, porcelain, silver and rugs. He said he was also investigating ways of attracting visitors from the Twelve Apostles to the shopping hub growing in Camperdown.

“We’re hopeful we’ll make the most of it,” he said.

For teachers Sarah Oakley and Chris Brooks, their business Oakbrook Collectables started out as a hobby.

“Before we knew it we had a shed full of stuff," Ms Oakley said. “We started doing markets and then we had a pop-up store. The feedback we got was really positive. Then last year we decided to give it a go.” Ms Oakley said the shop had antiques, vintage clothes and industrial items. We’re getting a lot of different people coming through the door.

“Some people might be looking for something specific and others might just have a wander.”

Corangamite Shire councillor Ruth Gstrein said Camperdown was much like any other town and there were always peaks and troughs in terms of shop vacancies.

“Any new business is always well received,” she said. 

“These probably do make us a destination for people. A few years ago there wasn’t a vacant shop. Then we’ve seen times when there have been a lot of empty shops. 

“I think we’ve always been fairly positive in Camperdown and that possibly could be because of the size of the town. They’re (the new businesses) all different and a great draw card for the town.”

Council’s manager for economic development and tourism Michael Emerson echoed Cr Gstrein and said the unique businesses gave people another reason to stop in the town. “Camperdown doesn’t have the big chain stores and these offer something different,” he said.