“It’s mine, it’s really mine!” proclaims Rachel Fowler as she turns the key in the large, freshly painted blue door in Johnson Street, Wagga Wagga. Beyond, her dream produce store café is taking shape.
Reaching behind the door Rachel sifts through several layers of dust on the floor, windowsills and ledges which until now hid a trove of artefacts from the building’s many previous owners and inhabitants.
Heavy black framed windows open out to the pavement, revealing ageing oak trees shedding their colourful leaves. An animated Rachel lays out her vision.
“This is the counter where I will be maintaining my belief of a simple fare of locally sourced ingredients in a cosy atmosphere,” she explains.
“I plan to meet my customers and serve them coffee, sticky tarts, sandwiches, jams pickles and other delicacies. They can browse my selection of high-quality produce and take in the elegance of the interior structure.”
Moving up the ramp and into the hallway, Rachel points out various nooks and areas.
“This wall is where the produce will be on display on various shelves and here will be a refrigerated unit for takeaway evening meals,” she says.
“To the left is the meeting room for the release of new products, book launches, recitals et cetera and behind that are the amenities and my brand new kitchen, which I can’t wait to try out!”
Rachel’s entry into country NSW coffee culture marks a shift from city life in London and Sydney where she had worked in the retail and business arenas, providing marketing ideas and creations.
When COVID forced a change to her working pattern, she moved home to the family farm in Young, kindling a desire to return to rural life.
She began looking for the right location and business venture.
“Only when a friend suggested I look at a heritage building in Wagga Wagga did I begin to think of relocating to a major inland city,” she smiles.
“A real estate agent put me in touch with the owners of this sad and vacant building and we negotiated a sale.
“Almost overnight I became the proud owner of 34 Johnson Street, Wagga Wagga.”
The building is thought to have been erected in 1932 next door to the Oxford Printery and was aptly named “The Press” in honour of the location where master printer Mr Johnson rolled off the first edition of the Wagga Daily Advertiser.
“There are so many old and interesting things in this building, which also housed a shire office, crisis call centre and a women’s health and wellbeing service,” Rachel says.
“There’s even a walk-in safe dating back to when the building was erected.”
Rachel has embarked on a massive project of restoring the building and updating amenities including the unmissable blue door, a stand out in the streetscape.
“I’m working hard to source really delicious produce; breads, cheeses, homemade relishes, preserves and coffee,” she says.
“The key to my success is everything I source being tasty and of high quality.”
Rachel envisages outside dining on warm summer nights and an evening pop-up bar for Friday wind-downs with martinis, cocktails and tasty finger food.
“Wagga Wagga is great and so diverse – the people here have an appetite for a range of choices but for me, being able to contribute to that seemed like a dream,” she says.
“Now with this amazing building being mine, the opportunities are endless.”
Rachel hopes to launch The Press in August.
“It is so nice to be in a community that’s excited and interested in my venture,” she says.
“I am pleased with my choice to come here and overwhelmed by the local support.”