Ah, the relentless march of time. Was it really only last year when my Other Half and I paused in front of Parry's Gift Store's premises in Korumburra to peer into its vast, empty interior? We both admired its acres of handsome wood flooring, wondering whether they'd survive the shop's next incarnation.
The good news is that the same vintage boards are back in business, boosted by a collaborative enterprise known as The Borough Department Store, which opened its doors in July 2018, following a substantial and sympathetic renovation to the building.
It can take a few moments to get your bearings in The Borough, so expansive is its interior. The Borough is a conglomerate of local food, wine and floristry ventures, which inhabit distinct areas of its open-plan shop floor. My OH and I managed to establish that the runway-length, bold-as-brass food counters located on opposite sides of the store, were Udder & Hoe cafe and pantry, and Tamsin's Table cake shop respectively. Lo-Fi Wines sell a good range of handcrafted, organic wines by the bottle and by the glass: their seating area and wine collection can be found at the far end of the Store. Hana Studio, of Meeniyan, has a stall next to Tamsin's Table, together with a range of individual blooms and natural bouquets on display near the Store's entrance. A selection of organic pantry foods is available, to one side of Udder & Hoe's cafe.
It being a chilly Spring morning, we opted for a cosy table by the sizeable wood burner in the centre of the store. My brain bade me select something savoury and nutritious from Udder & Hoe's cafe; my double-crossing eyes, however, had other ideas, drawn to the tempting confections displayed on the counter opposite.
Tamsin's freshly-baked, home-made cakes seemed to be selling, erm, like hotcakes, her creations disappearing almost as soon as they made an appearance. With just a smidgen of virtuousness, my OH opted for the cafe's luscious-looking Winter Salad, whilst I succumbed to the lure of something slightly heavier on the refined carbs - a slice of Lemon Drizzle Cake - to accompany my coffee. The cake fulfilled its visual promise; not overly sweet, and satisfyingly substantial. My flat white (Maker Coffee's The Maven single origin) was beautifully full and fruity.
You'll need to sit in or bring your own receptacle for beverages, as takeaway cups aren't provided: indeed, the whole Store is single-use plastic-free. The Borough's philosophy of cutting back on plastic waste extends to the weekly food market held on the premises, offering fresh, local produce together with traditional counter service.
The Borough is a rare gem in South Gippsland; a collaborative business venture founded upon a dedication to the principles of community and sustainability. What unites the Store's "departments" is their shared commitment to supporting local food producers, and their promotion of sustainable agriculture, horticulture and viticulture. It's still early days, but the secret is out about The Borough, and its feel-good food and philosophy have put it firmly on the map.