WHEN the idea for a secondhand mart in Camperdown first took hold, the owner’s knew at the time it would be ‘mammoth’.
Gary and Dianne Clissold could not have been more right, with the business and its rooftop mammoth cementing itself as a local landmark.
Now after 30 years, the couple closed the doors for the last time on Friday, handing the keys over to Camperdown identity Lawrie Voutier, but remember well the early days starting out with a Toyota agency.
Mr Clissold said the site was a vacant block when they took it on and built a large shed to accommodate the car and workshop out the back.
“The agency didn’t really last that long and really felt the effects of all the jobs lost when the local abattoirs closed,” he said.
“The sales just dropped away, so then we had to have a good think about what to do with this huge shed that we’d built.”
Mrs Clissold had already started up the craft shop on the premises as a side business to the cars and then the pair decided to set up the shed as a secondhand furniture mart.
A few years later the couple added a section for new furniture and then added on a plant nursery.
“We found the craft buyers and the plant buyers were similar people, and that the new and secondhand furniture buyers were similar people,” Mr Clissold said.
“The secret to business in such a small town it to have variety – you can’t specialise in any one thing and be too narrow if you want to survive.
“We often say that what we’ve ended up with is Camperdown’s version of a department store.
“People come in here from all over Australia and say they’ve never seen a shop quite like this before – it’s got just about everything.”
Mrs Clissold said Camperdown people had been very supportive of the business and travellers through the town made a point of stopping in.
“We have a lot of people who come from Warrnambool and Colac to shop here, and there are people from even further afield who always make of point of stopping here if they’re travelling through,” she said.
The fibreglass mammoth which sits atop the store also became a noted part of the business as well as a memorable landmark.
“We made the elephant for a float in one of Camperdown’s Leura Festivals – there was a fantasy theme and our kids were still little, so we did Dumbo the elephant,” Mrs Clissold said.
“It’s made of steel, chicken wire and fibreglass, and we’ve still got the fibreglass on our garage floor from when we made it!”
Mrs Clissold said another memorable moment was when she accidently locked someone in the store when she went home for the night.
“He was in here for a couple of hours before he finally rang his father, but his father couldn’t remember our surname to ring us and had to ring the police, who then rang us,” she said.
“That same customer still comes to shop here regularly, but always comes in the middle of the day now!”
The couple agreed parting with the business was bitter-sweet, but said the time had come to move onto the next stage of their lives, which will include finishing projects that had been put on the backburner due to the business, and plenty of travelling.
“We’ve enjoyed our time here and really want to thank the people of Camperdown and the wider district for all their support,” Mrs Clissold said.
“There’re a lot of parts of the business we’ll miss, but it’s our time to do something else and keep enjoying life.”