There is something quintessentially Australian about the local General Store.

Found in small towns and villages, they were once the keystone of rural communities where mobility was limited, so a single shop serviced the entire community. They were the heartbeat of the towns, a gathering spot, respite.

Like many readers, I have fond childhood memories of visiting my Nana in regional Victoria where a trip to the corner shop to purchase the essentials like milk and bread always included a bag of mixed lollies. The General Stores of today are more often than not local attractions in their own right, still servicing their local communities but with charm and history that evoke memories of yesteryear, with a modern twist such as a providore section.

Across our regions, General Stores still exist, many reinventing themselves to provide modern essentials without sacrificing the stores’ significance in preserving a little piece of history.

On any given day, the Guildford General Store feels like a scene out of an Aussie television show. Mums with bubs in prams pause for a catch up and a break on the outdoor tables. Older locals meet to chat about the weather and solve the problems of the world, passers-by are drawn to stop simply because the façade evokes all kinds of memories and of course the food and coffee is fabulous.

Local papers and magazines from across the region share space with pamphlets and cards spruiking everything from local tradies to reiki services. And in the tradition of a true General Store, grocery items are on offer alongside take-home meals and local produce. You can even pick up pot plants delivered regularly to the store by a local garden lover.

A 30-minute drive across to Glenlyon and you’ll find the Glenlyon General Store where memorabilia adorns the walls and history is preserved.

Seasonal and local food is appreciated by regulars and visitors and it certainly proves the importance of these little stores for local communities that are a little bit further from a big name grocery store.

Beautiful gifts including local jams, honey and chutney share space with local wine and selected produce. There’s a courtyard that often sees breakfast goers staying on for afternoon drinks.

At the heart of the store is old fashioned beliefs where community is valued. Locals were invited to grab a slice of birthday cake during lockdown…a small but important gesture to keep the fabric of the small community together.

It’s relaxed, uncomplicated and retains the community meeting place feel first offered over 100 years ago.

A short drive away again is the Hepburn General Store. Originally a local pub, it’s the epicentre of the small spa village.

On any given day the regulars can be seen, catching up on the neighborhood news outside, where you’ll find a community noticeboard covering just about everything.

Inside, kids can get a taste of what it was like when we picked out lollies from a jar. Tradies flock to the store for the daily specials, sharing the floorspace with those wandering through the specialty food and gift section. It even provides tuck-shop services for the small local primary school

The Hepburn General Store has reinvented itself as a take-away food and wine destination, with the essentials still on offer for times when you need a couple of basic grocery items. The homewares and gifts can be found online as well, all carefully chosen to reflect the uniqueness of the store, the town and the region.

Across in the Macedon Ranges you’ll discover the Newham General Store, operating since 1862. Over the years locals have captured the tales and the history of the store, its preservation and perseverance in the small country town.

New owners are now the custodians and some wonderful changes harmonise with the original charm of the 159-year-old icon.

While seasonal food and local wines are a staple, visitors can also choose from the simple, yet tasty menu. Be sure to check out Newham’s town mascot, Chin Chin, while you are there. This sculpture was created in 2010 as a nod to the town’s former pig factory, established by the Newham family in 1889. After disappearing two years ago, Chin Chin once again resides in front of the store, thanks to a town fundraising effort. Replica Chin Chin’s are available at the store, decorated by local artists.

Over in apple-country Harcourt, the local Produce and General Store is stocked full of fabulous local goodies. This one stop shop is a café, wine store, fresh flower shop and produce store all rolled into one. Choose from the delicious selection of cakes and Danish pastries, baked on-site daily by owner and chef, Annette Larsen, who hails from Denmark.

Also on offer is Annette’s own range, Larsen Produce, which includes wines, craft beer, preserves, relishes, jams, cordials and reductions, as well as smoked meat and fish. The passion that goes into this little gem is palpable and there’s a reason visitors and locals alike make a special trip to this much-loved community store. For a little taste of what you can expect, check out Annette’s traditional Danish dessert recipe on page 46.

Local general store owners across the Daylesford and Macedon Regions continue to preserve the charm and significance of the General Store, many with a modern twist preserving a little bit of Australian history while continuing to service their little communities and visitors to the region with charm and a smile.

About the author

Narelle Groenhout
Narelle Groenhout
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Narelle is a proud tree-changer who only a year or so ago, with her family, swapped suburban Melbourne life and a corporate communications role to fulfil her dream to raise her children in the country and live in a connected and compassionate community. Narelle feels like she has found her community in Daylesford and the surrounding region. Moving from a quarter-acre block on a busy road to an old farmhouse on a two and half acre piece of paradise, bordered on one side by a spring fed creek and the other by majestic eucalypt forest, Narelle has found the life she was looking for, spending her days gardening, entertaining friends and family and writing stories about the remarkable people she has met in her new community, along with trawling the local op-shops, markets, second-hand and tip shops for new treasures.