Interview * Megan + Duncan Trousdale * Nundle

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Odgers&McClelland

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Duncan&MeganTrousdale

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Welcome back! Our first story for 2014 encapsulates a little bit of all that The Countryphiles seeks to find and share with you: a tale of passion, devotion, hard work, adventure, dreams, romance, friendship, home-grown fruit & veg, chooks, gardens, music, wide open spaces, clean fresh air, natural beauty, family life AND community spirit + connection – all celebrated, shared and enjoyed by happy, inspiring people. What better way to begin the new year. Enjoy! x

Today, we journey to Nundle, a historic hamlet in New England, North West NSW, where Megan + Duncan Trousdale own and run the gorgeous Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores – a general merchants store of olde that was built in 1861.

Originally from Sydney, Megan first visited Nundle and spotted the historic timber and iron store in 1997 while researching a story for Country Style magazine in her former role as Deputy Editor {sigh – a writer’s dream job!}. Megan instantly fell in love with Nundle’s sense of community and the natural beauty of the area and just one year later had traded her inner-city Sydney life for a country village life in Nundle, along with her husband Duncan and their two boys Cormac + Gryf (Megan also has a daughter Isabelle). After renting the store for a couple of years, the opportunity arose to buy it and after careful restoration they re-opened Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores for business!

Megan and Duncan stock the store’s original 120-year-old packing case shelves with a huge variety of traditional, functional and authentic homewares & produce inspired by some old itemised ledgers they found during the restoration. Their stock includes badger-bristled brushes, coffee, tin and wooden toys, gardening tools, kitchenware. soap cut from the slab, English enamel ware, gardening wares, candles, candy-striped cotton tea towels and aprons, millet brooms, wicker baskets, flour in brown paper or cloth bags as well as fine loose-leafed teas in tea boxes hand-stenciled by Duncan. What a fabulous list! If you wish you could visit Nundle but don’t think you can, you’ll be pleased to know you can shop online!

The talented & passionate couple’s love of country life is captured beautifully in Megan’s own words:

‘Customers sometimes remark, “What is this shop doing in the middle of nowhere?” But this is our somewhere. Nundle friends are part of our extended family. The soft curves of the hills please my eyes. The river, open space, clean air, wattle birds, eastern rosellas and blue wrens all contribute to my sense of wellbeing. Golden light, cast on hills, trees, houses and faces I love in the magic hour before sunset, is extraordinary.”

Starting tomorrow, the store becomes one of 4 performance venues featured during Nundle Rocks (the town’s country music festival), which is held on the fringe of the Tamworth Country Music Festival from 17 to 26 January 2014. Megan is also involved in lots of other community-spirited events and collaborative projects. There’s no doubt the Trousdales are a very special family who have found a very special ‘somewhere’ indeed! x

Gryf &

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Nundle

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Tell us a little bit about your background/s – what were you both doing prior to re-opening Odgers & McClelland?

Duncan and I moved to Nundle 15 years ago (Boxing Day 1998 to be exact). Duncan had studied and travelled and I had worked in journalism and public relations and had a daughter, Isabelle. I first visited Nundle to research stories as Deputy Editor of Country Style magazine. I was so taken with the beauty of the landscape and could see several potential stories that I returned about a month later with Duncan and photographer John Fryz and his assistant.

Soon after that visit, Duncan and I started talking about leaving Sydney and relocating to country NSW. We travelled to many towns, but kept coming back to Nundle because of its physical beauty, friendliness and sense of community.

The FABULOUS Odgers & McClelland Exchange Store in Nundle, NSW was first established in 1891. How did you come to own this delightful, rural, pre-war general merchants store?

Peter and Judy Howarth had opened half of the 1891 Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores building as an art gallery. With Duncan’s degree in fine arts we offered to take on the gallery as a business. It soon became clear that visitors were more interested in the building and its history so we renovated and opened the other half of the store as a general merchants store specialising in house wares. The night before we opened (Easter Saturday, 2000) we literally worked all night. We had no sleep and took turns to go home and shower after opening.

The building is so much a part of our lives that after a couple of years of renting, we bought it from Peter and Judy Howarth.  Duncan put so much care and attention to detail into renovating the building and for a short time it was our home, with the intention of building a house on land at the back of the shop. With two sons who need space to run around, we have since bought a modest house on eight acres just outside Nundle. We are enjoying re-establishing gardens, growing our own fruit and vegetables, keeping laying chickens and grazing sheep. We still spend so much time at the store that it is our second home.

Customers constantly remind us about how special the building is. While I am wary of using the word ‘unique’, it is certainly rare with its rustic timber façade and iron roof and walls. If it was anywhere else it may have been knocked down years ago.

You sell AMAZING quality tools/implements/wares/toys/teas/provisions for all things country. What makes you so passionate about the products you source and running a general merchants store?

We take great pride and interest in the products we stock. It is easy to be excited about goods that you use yourself, that make work easier and more pleasant in the house and garden, and will be helpful to customers. We keep an eye on trends, but essentially are not interested in fashion. Many of the brands we sell have been around for more than half a century and hopefully will still be around in another half a century. We have a preference for natural materials timber, steel, glass, horse hair, ostrich feathers, and millet, over synthetics and plastic and we have made a special effort to source suppliers who manufacture or import tools made from natural materials for the house and garden.

Where or who or what do you draw your inspiration from?

The appeal of the store is attributed to its authenticity and story. When we bought the store it came with a suitcase full of original handwritten and typed invoices, accounts and ledgers. We could see at a glance what had been originally stocked in the store and we used that as our inspiration; so, bulk soap cut from the slab, bulk tea weighed into brown paper bags, and brands that are household names and have stood the test of time; TALA, Mason Cash, Falcon enamelware. Add to that contemporary goods with an artisan handprint; Robert Gordon Australia ceramics, Green Grove Organics licorice, New England Larder preserves and condiments.

There are very few original, working, general merchants stores left.

What is the highlight of running such a store?

The highlight is when people connect with the store and genuinely appreciate that it is still standing and operating as a general merchants. We have a lot of people visit whose relatives worked at the store and sometimes their relative’s name is written on the tin or timber walls where staff used to record local events or graffiti.

What sort of reactions do you get from visitors to your WONDERFUL store?

Because of the vintage nature of the goods we stock, the store evokes many memories for visitors. It is lovely when just picking up a Falcon enamel pie dish can remind someone of a loved one, usually a mother or grandmother, and the meals that they shared cooked in dishes just like those that we sell. The store evokes a great sense of nostalgia and visitors reminisce about comfort food – baked rice pudding, steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s pie – and are enthused to cook these meals again.

Do you use many of the items you stock at Odgers & McClelland in your own personal lives?

Absolutely. I would use goods from the store at least a dozen times a day. My kitchen cupboards are full of Falcon enamelware, Mason Cash bowls, a TALA dry measure, tea, and coffee, and in the laundry and garage there are brushware and garden tools from the store. The best thing is many of these items are years old so we know they last and can recommend them to customers.

Does the online store play a major role or is Odgers & McClelland a destination store and a store for locals?

It’s pretty much 50/50. About half of our business is over the counter from locals and visitors and half from online orders, orders over the telephone or market stalls leading up to Christmas. Online retail has increased exponentially since we started the online store two years ago in March. People have come to trust online shopping and actively seek goods through online searches, particularly if they are time poor. Online shopping is convenient but nothing replaces the experience of visiting a store personally and taking in the senses of sight, sound, smell and touch.

What does a typical day in the life of Duncan & Megan the ‘Odgers & McClelland Store Owners’ look like; from when you wake to when you go to sleep?

It starts with a cup of coffee and a read in bed. Very early the boys join us for a read and a story before breakfast and getting ready for school before the catching the bus. Duncan usually works in the shop and I work at home, either writing for magazines, our shop blog, or maintaining the online store, gardening, or the inevitable cleaning. I work in the store a couple of days a week. Work in the shop involves packing online orders, ordering stock, unpacking deliveries and talking with customers. Depending on the seasons afternoons and evenings can involve a dip at the Nundle Swimming Pool, cooking from the garden, or drinks with friends. In winter we tend to hibernate and a lot of time goes into chopping and stacking wood and starting fires to keep the house warm.

Do you have ‘other lives’ or is Odgers & McClelland your primary project?

Odgers and McClelland is our primary project but outside of the store I write as a freelance journalist for Country Style, House and Garden, Gardening Australia and Organic Gardener. I’m pretty involved as a volunteer for several event committees in Nundle (Nundle Country Picnic, Nundle Go For Gold Chinese Easter Festival, Nundle Business Tourism and Marketing Group Inc) and enjoy spending time with our boys, renovating our house, reading, and gardening. Duncan has a very green thumb and grows a lot of our food. Duncan also brews his own beer, ginger beer and apple cider. He enjoys fishing in the Peel River, Chaffey and Sheba Dams or on the mid north coast where my parents live. In the last year, we have spent a lot of time planting trees, establishing new fences and a framework for the garden and started grazing a small flock of meat sheep.

Do you still live at the store?

We don’t live at the store anymore. When we did it was very social. If I heard a familiar voice in the store I would often go next door to say hello. People would drop in for a chat or a cup of tea and at the time, Cormac was 3 and Gryf was a baby, so it was handy having Duncan close by.

Do you consider yourselves to be ‘Countryphiles’? Do you love country life? Why?

Growing up on the rural fringe of Sydney and travelling to regional areas for school holidays as children gave us both a taste for country life at an early age. Then we went to an agricultural high school, which further exposed us to country kids and the opportunity to visit friends’ properties in the country. While we both made the most of our twenties in the city, we both knew there was an alternative and are very glad we took that path.

What aspect of country life are you loving MOST at the moment?

The friends we have made at Nundle, past and present, and the sense of community we have at Nundle. I love being able to step out my kitchen door to pick greens for dinner, and to watch our sons playing in the garden whether it’s running under a sprinkler, watching the new lambs or collecting bones for the museum they created on a tree stump.

What is the most CHALLENGING aspect of country life? What are the ups and downs of running a store in a small country town?

We have to do everything ourselves from trimming the Virginia Creeper growing on the verandah railing and stamping brown paper bags to packaging tea and applying paper labels, writing and tying price tags tags, and drilling holes in timber brushware handles. It is a labour of love because we have created the re-opened store and it is such a big part of our life. While there is a lot to do, it is satisfying.

Tea or coffee? Do you have a favourite country café? Where and why?

I had a story published in the December 2013 issue of Country Style on Ruby’s Café and Gift Store at Tamworth. I enjoy this café because the owners Christopher Woods and Leisel McIlrick-Woods serve great coffee and food in a creative environment. I arrange lunch meetings there, as well as lunch with my son Gryf on shopping days, or with my mum Margaret when she’s visiting.

Where was the last great meal you enjoyed/shared in the country?

I had a great lunch with my girlfriend Nicola Worley at Addimi Espresso at Tamworth after we saw the movie Diana. I enjoy taking my son Gryf to Ruby’s Café and Gift Store at Tamworth. My daughter Isabelle and I had a lovely lunch and I later visited the weekly Saturday organic market at French restaurant Le Pruneau at Tamworth. I also love the Willow Tree Inn at Willow Tree and was treated to lunch there for a girlfriend Susi’s birthday with friends last year.

YOUR country town’s best kept secret?

The Peel River. The river is a source of great relaxation and play for our children. Something as simple as throwing rocks in the water and making splashes can entertain them for ages. Include a picnic lunch and a good book or a knitting project and you’re set. The Nundle CWA recently established a river walk along the Peel River, that has opened up a lovely recreation area for families and greater appreciation of the flora and fauna that live in the river habitat. Other must see attractions are:

1. Wool-themed architect designed playground

2. Nundle Woollen Mill

3. Cottage on the Hill patchwork barn

4. Sacs on Jenkins accessories store

5. Antiques stores, Jenkins Street Antiques and Fine China, Ratters’ Flat Antiques, Nundle Country Trader

6. Arc-en-ciel Trout farm

7. Sheba Dams

8. Nundle Craft Co-operative (open weekends)

9. Fifteen (15) annual events including the Nundle Go For Gold Chinese Easter Festival and The Great Nundle Dog Race, Food outlets, The Peel Inn, Mount Misery Gold Mine Café, and Café Nundle Music events, regular live music and dinner at The Supper Room, Tamworth Country Music fringe festival, and mid year Hats Off to Country at The DAG.

{Phew! What an amazing little town! Now I understand why their motto is ‘Nundle – Why Rush It?’ You can find out more on Nundle’s community-owned website: www.nundle.com.au}

Would you ENCOURAGE others to live a country life? Why/why not?

It is not for everyone. Certainly if your family and support network are in a capital city it is hard, and perhaps unwise, to leave. Moving away from our families was the hardest part of moving to the country. I appreciate the regular contact of my friends and their parents who live in close proximity. It is lovely to see the generations interacting and helping each other.

If having space, contributing to a community, and living close to nature with less debt is important to you then country life has great rewards.

What ADVICE would you give those dreaming of making a TREE CHANGE?

Save up a safety net and do it. There are plenty of opportunities in regional areas, particularly in small towns within reach of regional cities. Travel to regional areas and research towns to find the right fit for you and your family.

What can we expect NEXT from you/Odgers & McClelland in the future?

More of the same really. I can’t see our vision for the store changing. We will keep an eye out for new suppliers and goods that suit the store. If anything, we are looking for more goods that fit the leaning towards self-sufficiency. We recently started stocking cheese cloths for cheesemaking and maslin pans for jam making.

What would be your DREAM project?

This is our dream project.

Can you list for us 5 specific things you turn to/do when you need of a ‘dose’ of city life?

1. Duncan’s brother Brent and his family live in Sydney’s inner west and that’s where we lived before moving to Nundle. We often seek out our old stomping ground around Glebe and visit Glebe Books.

2. Brent and his partner Rebecca often take us to their latest favourite family-friendly (between us we have five boys) café in the inner western suburbs.

3. We love to take in a good playground and a dose of the harbour so a visit to the Glebe Foreshore Parks and a harbour walk at Blackwattle Bay is a great family outing.

4. Our sons have never lived in Sydney so we are such tourists when we go to the city and take them to Taronga Zoo (by train and ferry of course), Sydney Aquarium, and they marvel at the skyscrapers in the CBD.

5. Hopefully, we will travel to Sydney these summer school holidays as I am keen to visit some of the cafes and retail outlets I read so much about: Cornersmith at Marrickville and The Grounds of Alexandria.

Megan + Duncan Trousdale

Odgers & McClelland General Store

Jenkins Street, Nundle NSW

Just Acorn

5 thoughts on “Interview * Megan + Duncan Trousdale * Nundle

  1. What a lovely write up about one of the most wonderful shops I have visited. We were heading south on a family holiday several years ago when I saw the turnoff to Nundle. We took the turn as I knew there was a quilt shop in Nundle only to discover something even more wonderful.

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