For over a year now, Khancoban has been without a General Store.
It closed its doors in February 2016, and has sat conspicuously empty in the central precinct since then. Residents buy their essentials at the cafes and service station, and travel to Corryong, or even Tumbarumba or Albury – each over an hour away – to do their shopping.
However, that could soon be about to change.
Part of the $8.8 million in Snowy Valleys Council infrastructure grants announced last month is over a half a million dollars, $594,000, for the “Khancoban Streetscape and General Store.”
Snowy Valleys Division Manager, Strategy and Place, Georgia MacDougal, said doing something about the vacant building was a clear priority at the Khancoban infrastructure grants community meeting held in January.
“I think it’s a really positive thing for Khancoban, we’ve seen a lot of development: we’ve got a great little chemist in there now, a beautician that’s opened up, an acupuncturist, the caravan park is going really well, so I think it’s another exciting and positive step to help Khancoban move forward,” she said.
Council is in talks with the current owners to buy the building, at which point they will invite Expressions of Interest to lease it out. There’s a strong chance the large building will be subdivided, with funds set aside to break the building up for a multitude of businesses, but council will decide exactly what they’ll do after they’ve seen what is on offer.
“Primarily we’re looking for commercial businesses,” she said.
“The whole idea of this is to support the vibrancy of the Khancoban shopping centre. Our preference is a commercial business, and what the community have told us is that they want a supermarket.
“[Successful tenders] needs to enhance the retail mix in Khancoban. There will be some broad criteria, but we’re pretty keen to see what people come back with. One thing that has been made clear to everyone who has expressed an interest is that it must not take business away from existing businesses.”
Residents in Khancoban are looking forward to the sale and the new lessees – if it goes ahead. There is a feeling of distrust in the council, with a common refrain being “we’ve heard that before.”
Ironically, many of the statements made by Khancoban residents about the Tumbarumba shire could be word-for-word Tumbarumba complaints about being part of Tumut.
As one resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, put it: “we were the arse-end of the shire before, and now we’re the furthest edge of the arse.”
That resident is also worried about the effect on current businesses, regardless of what council say.
“Our concern here is that the shire is going to put something in there that will effect all of the [local businesses],” they said.
“Now they say that they won’t, but the town is too small to have another general store.
“Give us a community centre that’s workable, somewhere where we can do things with kids, where we can have movie nights, where ladies can do their crafts. The current one is too big, and too cold. Or try and get us a hairdresser or somebody back.
“We’ve got the workings of a little town. We’ve got a pharmacy, we’ve got two cafes, we’ve got a country club, we’ve got a pub, we’ve got service station. We’ve got enough to keep this place running, and to keep all businesses viable.”
However, most residents are cautiously optimistic.
Pharmacist Marko Povolic, whose chemist sits opposite the vacant General Store, said he’d like to be involved in the tender process.
“I’m really positive and I hope something happens, but until it’s actually purchased by the shire, we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” he said.
“But once it happens, that’ll be great.” New Khancoban residents Mel and Craig Lennerd have been doing their shopping through Coles’ “click and collect” program, picking up their groceries in Corryong one day a week.
However, that flies in the face of their philosophy of supporting local businesses, and they said they’d look forward to supporting a new store.
“We don’t like going to Corryong – it’s so cold!” said Mel.
“We’re super excited, absolutely. Any infrastructure council can invest in is wonderful.
“We get our milk and things from here, and we come down [to the shopping precinct] with the kids almost every day. Any infrastructure I think is great.”
Council estimates EOIs for the General Store building will go out late this year.