The retail world can be cut throat. It’s survival of the fittest. Survival only for those who have a truly unique offering.
For Roxanne Ebina, that offering starts with a lovely cup of tea.
Roxanne owns Com-Nunie-Tea, a new women’s fashion shop at Cooleman Court modelled around the concept of building community.
‘We invite anyone, not just customers, to pop by, make themselves a cup of tea and sit around the big communal table at the back of the store to relax, meet new friends and learn new things,’ says Roxanne.
Com-Nunie-Tea also builds community by offering the space at no cost to designers, artists and others wanting to showcase their wares, hold demonstrations or conduct information sessions.
Recently, Robyn Toohey, a Canberra milliner with 12 years’experience, taught women how to wear hats, including the colourful felt hats she makes from merino and alpaca fleece (Robyn grows her own alpaca). “So many find it hard to wear a hat, yet everyone can,” says Roxanne, “Robyn taught us how to choose a hat style and colour that is flattering.”
In another community class, doTERRA taught women how to use essential oils for mood management. doTERRA has also run a class on how to use oils to make perfume, with customers creating their own scents.
Another session was a demonstration on how to wear Infinities, made out of pre-loved men’s silk ties by Canberra designer Bronwynne Jones, demonstrated at least seven ways to wear one scarf, including the single twist, double twist, cravat, rosette and simple knot.
The concept of a communal retail space was a long time coming, says Roxanne who is open to all types of events and ideas. Most sessions are free, with the odd person charging a small amount to cover supplies (like $12 for customers creating their own perfume).
“The shop doesn’t profit. I don’t rent the space out; it’s available as part of my community offering,” says Roxanne. “I just want to provide a fun and inspiring environment—a space where my customers and others can do what they love. It’s about people meeting new people and coming together over engaging conversations.” Roxanne is no stranger to retail. She grew up in fashion with her mum owning Pumpkin Boutique in Bowral for 30 years. After studying Japanese at uni, Roxanne lived and worked in Japan for a decade. When she returned she bought Nunie, a high-end women’s fashion store that opened more than 50 years ago here in Canberra. “It’s older than I am,” says Roxanne.
Next up, Roxanne opened a second store in Manuka, called Yu, but for commercial reasons combined the two and opened Nunie and Yu at Curtin Shops. Roxanne has an eye for purchasing and favours Australian, New Zealand and Canadian labels, some quite quirky and some not available in any other retail outlet. Joseph Ribkoff, Paula Ryan, Madly Sweetly, Verge and at least a dozen others—at various price points—are in store.
“When I discovered space at Cooleman Court I knew in my heart that the timing was right for my new concept,” says Roxanne.
At Com-Nunie-Tea, Roxanne also sells a small selection of free trade items that are reasonably priced, including some pottery, hand-made dolls and jewellery. Customers can also donate to A Cure For Freyja, an initiative to raise funds for Canberra’s Freyja Christiansen who battles a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
If you want to explore a community concept with Roxanne, email email@example.com.
To stay on top of upcoming events, follow Com-Nunie-Tea on Facebook.