In the tiny town of Cumnock in Central West NSW, we have been able to support the local general store because of the Drought Community Support Initiative.
Since the drought started, Cumnock General Store’s sales have been cut in half.
“We hardly see people,” said Paula Rudd, who bought the 138-year-old business with her husband, Greg, five years ago. “And when they do come in, they look so tired and careworn.”
Country born-and-bred; Paula describes the latest drought as the worst in recent memory. “You’ve got people in their 90s who have never seen anything like it,” she said.
The Rudds see themselves as caretakers of one of the longest continuously running businesses in Australia. The store, which doubles as the town’s bank and post office, started trading in 1882.
“We definitely feel the pressure of that, that’s for sure. We are only the fourth owners. We had very big shoes to fill.” The business had been run into the ground when the Rudds bought it, due to the previous owner’s health issues. “We came into it all guns blazing and we haven’t stopped working, seven days a week, 12-16 hours a day.”
The Rudds added a cafe and resuscitated the hardware section – along with groceries, fuel, hay, dog food and now alcohol, Cumnock General Store even sells the kitchen sink.
Thanks to the DCSI assistance provided by the Society, the Rudds can continue operating an institution of the local community.
“Is it a good thing? Overwhelmingly yes. It keeps people coming through my door,” Paula said. “We’re not going to shut the doors. Not on our watch.”