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CELEBRATING COLLABORATION IN THE SOUTH COAST TOWN OF BERRY, NSW


Image supplied by Bangalay Luxury Villas



The little semi-rural town of Berry sits just off Princes Highway on the drive from Sydney down toward Jervis Bay, situated inland between Gerroa and Shoalhaven Heads. Having grown and developed from its former reputation as a tourist stop-over hot spot, Berry has steadily gained traction to become one of the must-visit destinations of the NSW South Coast. With its gorgeous homewares shops, charming cafes, and beautiful homes set against a backdrop of almost unbelievably green rolling hills dotted with cows, it’s not difficult to see why this town is so well-loved by visitors and residents alike.


In a publication dedicated to singing the praises of collaboration, Berry was an obvious choice. Its business owners, visitors, residents, and local personalities all contribute to what truly is an ecosystem that thrives off partnerships and mutual respect. We spoke to some of our favourite Berry business owners to gain an insight into what it's like to exist within a space where community and collaboration are paramount.



WHERE TO STAY IN BERRY



Michelle Bishop, Bangalay Luxury Villas

I grew up in Shoalhaven Heads (the same postcode as Berry), but moved to Manly at the age of 18 to study Interior Design and ended up staying for 14 years. I moved back to Shoalhaven Heads in 2013 - I couldn’t stay away!


I understand small towns very well. I grew up with my grandparents and great grandparents in town and attended pre, primary and high school with the same people. I then went on to marry my husband, Tom, whose family have been farmers in the area for generations. 6 degrees of separation doesn’t usually apply when it comes to people in the area!

I love being able to run a business in the place I adore, and I love seeing visitors enjoy it too.

In Shoalhaven Heads, everything has been built by volunteers - the surf club, golf course, pump track, skateboard park, native botanic gardens, and footpaths. The community and the village deserve to be respected. I see the uniqueness of the village as part of the success of Bangalay.



WHERE TO EAT IN BERRY



Kath Smart, Far Meadow Table

I’ve been a Berry local for 4 lovely years. I feel so lucky to be part of the Berry and Shoalhaven community. Since opening Far Meadow Table we have felt nothing but support from the local community. The network that exists in this area is so incredible, not only between our customers but other businesses too.

There are so many clever people running awesome businesses in Berry and the Shoalhaven and we feel honoured to work amongst such a high standard.

It is extremely important to support one another in such a small community and that support for one another is definitely an advantage of living in a regional town that you might not get in a larger city.



Queen Street Eatery, Berry

Sam Riles


Louise and Bec Riles, Queen Street Eatery

Our extended family has been in the local area for a few generations, but we have lived in Berry itself from the late '90s, and early 00's when Bec was attending high school. Bec moved to Sydney to study interior design, eventually returning to Berry in 2007 to open Roots & Wings Design, a fashion and lifestyle boutique. The whole family has lived in Sydney, but they have all moved back to live in Berry at various times. Brother Ben (who worked for six years at Rockpool B& G) came back as our first head chef when we opened Queen St Eatery 3 ½ years ago. (He will be the new head chef at the Ovolo hotel in South Yarra, VIC, set to open next month).


We believe small businesses really need to work cooperatively or collaboratively in small towns like Berry. Sometimes that can be a challenge when people view one another as merely competitors rather than a business community. Berry really survives on domestic tourism, and we all benefit from this trade. The stronger each of us is, the more the community overall, will thrive.



WHAT TO DO IN BERRY




Lucy Marshall, Merribee

We bought Merribee in 2000 - so technically 21 years. Originally, we commuted to and from Merribee (from Sydney) in the middle of every week for 20 years - it was only last year during lockdown that we finally became full-time residents!


Having been open to the public on Wednesdays since August last year, we have found collaboration and community to be everything.

From finding wonderful staff, to people bringing us cuttings for our gardens, a real sense of community has grown for us in such a short time.

People order their roses online every week from us and collect them the next morning, they buy them for their 90 year old friends’ birthdays, we find we have old men standing in front of a rose bush crying suddenly in joy, because of a smell they have not encountered since they were 5 in their grandmothers’ gardens. People tell us they feel a sense of generosity and community in the garden. We are delighted to help celebrate 100 year olds’ birthdays, we know the names of people’s children and their dogs when they arrive, and people are made to feel special. I think this is lost in a city. It is terribly important to us all here and it is repaid ten times over.




Nick Crowther, IV Coffee

My family had a farm in Berry when I was a teenager but I only properly moved to town around 2 years ago. It’s great working in such a collaborative and community-driven environment but obviously comes with its challenges as not everyone is on the same page. Because everyone knows each other and fellow shop owners are your friends, the collaboration between members of the community is very natural. The pros are that businesses can bounce off each other both in terms of support and by sending customers to each other. We think it’s important to respect what the community has achieved so far, but things need to be challenged always and change needs to take place in order for a small town to grow and develop.



Berry Donut Van

Berry Donut Van

These guys simply get an honourable mention because well… Berry Donuts! If you haven’t tried one of these puffs of deliciousness before, make sure you get your hands on one on the way through next time. (Pro tip: try to get there as soon as they open to avoid the long wait!)



WHERE TO SHOP IN BERRY



Shady Fig

Michelle Collison, Shady Fig

We've been located on our corner in Berry for seven years now however Shady Fig has existed in some form for over 14 years.


Feeling supported and having open conversations with other shop owners about business is a plus of the small town community. We have also introduced hampers into our online and in-store offerings and have collaborated with Mountain Ridge Winery, The Berry Tea Shop, and The Berry Chocolatier to add a local touch to the hampers.




Catherine Bollen, Juniper Hearth

I have been a Berry local for four and a half life-changing years, and I’ve never looked back! Juniper Hearth first opened in Berry in 2002 and has been a destination for lovers and collectors of textiles, and textile inspired fashion, accessories and homewares ever since.


Berry is a special community – I didn’t have a retail background, so I thank my lucky stars to have landed here. Right from the start I found the locals to be friendly, loyal and supportive (and I really learnt how much so in 2020!), and the local business owners are the same.

As I work collaboratively with designers and textile artisans both here in Australia and around the world, being a part of a community that respects the creative spirit and collaboration makes Berry the perfect fit with my ethos.

All the retailers in town work hard to offer something different, and being respectful of each other allows us to ensure that Berry offers a unique shopping experience. I think that’s what sets us apart as a destination and keeps people coming back!



Few & Far Berry

Tara Solberg, Few & Far

We have owned a store in Berry since 2015 - so for the past 6 years. It has been such a wonderful and heartwarming experience working in and being a part of the Berry community. Since opening our store here in 2015, we have made so many beautiful friends and have met so many welcoming people, which is exactly what makes Berry the unique and incredibly special place that it is. Collaboration has played a key role in both the development of our business in the Berry area, but also the town itself. Unlike many other areas, Berry has built an engaged and loyal community who continue to collaborate together to foster ideas and creative ways of thinking, and who come together to build a supportive and encouraging environment. There is definitely a strong feeling of 'community spirit' which we feel so grateful to be a part of.



 


WORDS | Lucy Francis

IMAGES | Supplied

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