Creswick Woollen Mills has secured a $500,000 grant from the state government to further improve its visitor attractions with an expanded cafe area, animal viewing facilities and upgraded welcome centre.
The mills have a strong focus on attracting Chinese tourists with a specialised sales area and what is described as ‘an interactive fibre tourism experience’, where the process of making woollen products is demonstrated and explained.
Executive director of Creswick Woollen Mills Boaz Herszfeld says achieving the grant is the end product of three years of consultation with the state government and Regional Development Victoria.
“With today’s enhancement grant, we’ll be able to make a much greater space and much more area for our incoming Chinese groups,” said Mr Herszfeld.
“I’ve been personally going to China for five or six years working on bringing groups here. We’re about halfway through our ten-year plan of expanding that tourism.”
Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford visited the factory on Monday morning to announce of the grant.
The funding comes as the Creswick Woollen Mills celebrate 70 years of manufacturing.
“What I’ve learned about today is the most extraordinary story,” said Ms Pulford.
“Such a remarkable journey your grandfather had,” Ms Pulford told Mr Herszfeld.
“It’s a journey of textiles, manufacturing and now into tourism.”
The mills were established by Mr Herzfeld’s grandfather Paul Ryzowy in 1947, after he fled the Nazi takeover of Poland at the start of the Second World War.
Along with a partner, he took over a disused bottle-thatching factory in the goldfields town and built a prosperous business that manufactured electric blankets for Linda and the famous ‘Bluey’ woollen jackets.
Mr Herszfeld said the manufacture of the electric blankets was one of the original recycling projects in Australia.
His grandfather would purchase bulk amounts of secondhand woollen clothing which was broken down and used in other garments by his workers. The wool was known as ‘shoddy’.
The darker wool was used up first, leaving the more garish colours to be woven into the wool that was used in the electric blankets, knowing they would not be seen.