While shopping destinations like Sturt Street and Bridge Mall remain dotted with empty shopfronts, a number of quiet streets are buzzing with buyers.
The Courier talked to three creative local women about why they decided residential streets – far from Ballarat’s traditional shopping strips – were the perfect place to build a business.
After ten years in the beauty industry, Mt Emu native Isobelle Nunn (main picture) realised it was time to branch out.
With ease of parking and a quiet setting top of mind, it was a quaint house close to Creswick Road on Webster Street which captured her heart.
“Most of the places I’d been looking at – unconsciously – were similar. They were weatherboard and had probably once upon a time been shopfronts with a house attached, an older style,” Ms Nunn said.
“The aesthetic of Webster Street is just beautiful, leafy and green. Very tranquil.
“Ease of parking is a huge thing too, so I was looking at properties further out anyway. I have worked in salons in highly-developed areas, and the main concern for clients is the parking.
Blush Beauty on Webster Street was born, adorned with a bright pink door, providing waxing, make-up, eyelashes, and spa services.
Ms Nunn said the response has been “overwhelmingly positive”, despite initial fears the neighbours might revolt against the Barbie doll colour palette.
“Being in a weatherboard house, you have to do something slightly different to grab attention,” she said.
“You don’t have that massive glass window pane that screams ‘shop’, so for me it was definitely all about the pink door to create that interest.”
For The Crafty Squirrel’s Morgan Willis, a tree change from Melbourne over eight years ago prompted her to find a retail front in Ballarat for her existing design business.
She said the expectation of trading up to seven days a week in a high street shop turned her off that idea.
“My feeling is that if I was in the main street, my shop would be very different to what it is now,” Ms Willis said. “Being a destination shop meant that people had to seek me out to visit me.
“There’s also something, I think, that’s kind of charming about having it in your own neighbourhood. It’s like a secret.
“The fact that I have so many visitors from outside of Ballarat, and we have a people that live here and are still finding us … we need to encourage people to shop local!”
While the craft store has been embraced by its neighbours, there is camaraderie amongst Ballarat’s small, quirky businesses.
“All of the little independent shops, we’re all interconnected with the others and sort of know each other,” Ms Willis said.
“When I first came to the area, there was no-one really like me. Liz was one of my best customers, she got inspired, and opened Tilly Mint (on Skipton Street) about three years after I got here. It’s been great.”
For many creatives, the jump to their first bricks-and-mortar shopfront is a daunting one. But Monique ten Hove has found a more affordable solution, until she can open her own shopfront selling furniture paints and up-cycled pieces.
Her store Dandelion Wood has ‘popped up’ in Victoria Street, before she commits to anything more than a stall at the Daylesford Mill Markets.
“I’ve been considering a shop in Ballarat for a while; in Daylesford, the shops are so expensive with the rent,” she said. “It’s a trial, and if it goes well we might consider setting up in a little heritage building somewhere in town.
“We do things that are a little bit different to the chain stores.”
Often it is cafes which are able to embed themselves into a neighbourhood. Ballarat has an endless number of successful suburban eateries, including Bodega and Tin Roof Cafe.
Ms ten Hove said she’d agreed to take on the pop-up store until the end of March because of the patronage at Namaste Nourishment next door.
“I wanted to be near a coffee shop, so ladies could pop in, get their projects materials and maybe get a cuppa,” she said.
Ms Nunn said Webster’s Market and Cafe was the first example of “something different” on her street, and the "good will of that business is encouraging”.