A chapter for business in Mullumbimby will soon be closed as Bi-Rite shuts shop over the coming weeks.
Owner-operator Graeme Wilson will be selling off remaining stock and then taking a long-earned break from working full time in retail for nearly 23 years.
All but one of his full time employees have already landed other jobs in the region.
‘I’ll be doing everything possible to help find employment for him,’ he says.
‘It’s the right time to go,’ Graeme reflects. ‘While business was still performing well, I started to see the signs.’
Following US retail model
As for the causes, he says a combination of the pressure from bigger chain stores and the internet has played its part.
‘Australia seems to be following the same retail business model that the USA has, but only a few years behind.
‘I don’t begrudge that – it’s just the reality.
‘I think ultimately we all as consumers decide the retail landscape, but I still feel it is a sad time to see the stores with personalised service on the decline.’
After completing Mullum High School, Graeme began his career in retail, which included working for the town’s only other electrical and furniture shop – Bridglands.
‘I was there for over 11 years before going out on my own in 2003, buying the business that originally was started by Bill and Noel James in 1953.
‘We started out at one end of Burringbar Street and in 2007 moved to much larger premises at the other end, next to the Commonwealth Bank.’
As for the building’s future, he is unsure whether to sell or retain it – at 500 square metres in size, the building is one of the largest in town.
Graeme says he is open to any good suggestions or offers on what it could be used for.
‘The local community has been good to me for a very long time, for which I am very grateful. And equally I have always tried to return that support in any way possible.’
Graeme says he is looking forward to taking some time out and having a long-earned rest with some travelling also planned.