by Gabrielle Hall
An emporium of food, coffee and local produce in the heart of the Clare Valley is the newest chapter for the Watervale General Store.
Well-known local foodies Louise and Neil Haines have taken ownership of the space and given the store back its 1850s charm complete with a retro vintage feel, and it is fast-developing a reputation as a ‘go-to’ for a catch up with friends.
“I’m a bit old fashioned so I really liked the idea of bringing it back to a traditional general store. I think people like to support local,” Louise says.
“The store is a community asset. It’s important for locals to have a shop and a post office. People come here for many different reasons, it might be for a quick grocery shop, ice, gas, the paper or to come and eat. We like to see it as a meeting place to unwind and relax.”
Vintage homewares, local foods, fresh produce and flowers, traditional and gourmet groceries all greet customers through the door.
“The tourists want a destination, and we’d like to create something that is iconic,” she said. “Watervale is already known for its riesling, but we want the store to be a ‘must visit’ when you come to the Clare Valley.”
Louise and Neil have been in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years, with a reputation for good food that resonates around the Clare Valley and beyond.
The menu features ‘simple fare’ using local produce wherever possible, including Louise’s signature quandong cheesecakes using wild fruit picked from her childhood home at Brinkworth. “We’re trying to use local, regional foods where possible and people have been bringing in produce like quinces and apples for us to use,” she says.
“We want to be accessible to everybody so if you still want to come in for locally baked breads and pastries you can, but there’s also something different on offer and we’re looking to expand the food available.”
The Watervale General Store’s weekend breakfasts, available until 1pm, are also building a reputation and there are plans afoot for a number of other initiatives including an art exhibition scheduled for August.
“Watervale is ripe for this sort of business,” Louise says. “It’s a real village, so cohesive and when people give us really great feedback it is exciting and we’re looking forward to the future and to keep building on it.”
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