12 September 2023

New custodians of historic general store welcomed with open arms

| Morgan Kenyon
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little girl thumbs up next to Michelago General Store sign

A vital resource for local residents, the Michelago General Store has changed hands only twice since being built in the late 1980s. Photo: Michelago General Store.

Nestled below the Tinderry Mountains a short drive from Canberra’s border lies the charming village of Michelago. Founded in the 1820s, the town has seen its fair share of historic action, including bushranger escapes and a whole-town hold-up.

These days though, Michelago is a gentle, friendly place to settle that attracts families, homesteaders and retirees.

Every healthy rural community needs a place to gather, whether to swap gardening tips, share important updates or partake in some good, old-fashioned gossip.

For local residents, this place comes in the shape of the Michelago General Store, built by Cheryl and Brian Kenyon in 1989.

Since then it has changed hands only twice, each time to a family with four children, just like the Kenyons.

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The store’s latest caretakers, the Hayes family, moved to Michelago in 2021. Belinda and Dale quickly fell in love with the village and its community, which Belinda says is warm, honest and hard working.

“My husband and I were keen to give our kids Olivia, William, Lola and Delilah the chance to grow up in a relaxed country environment,” she says.

“After working in project management for nearly 15 years, I was looking for a change in career. When the place we popped into almost every day to grab our groceries and say hello went up for sale, I was hooked.

“Getting the chance to pour our hearts and souls into a place so dear to so many is a real honour. We are making it our own, but it’s also incredibly important to me that we keep the shop true to its roots and pay homage to its history.”

As well as a community hub, ‘the shop’ acts as a foundation for other small businesses in and around the village, and from further afield.

“The shop is integral to Michelago’s function, communication and unique spirit,” Belinda says.

“Locals come in and share their lives with us every day. My favourite thing about turning the lights on each morning is knowing I’ll get to hear their stories.

“We employ local women, all with their own motivations and dreams. We provide school lunch orders for the kids and celebrate local producers. We are a supermarket, cafe, post office, noticeboard, home, hardware and farm supply… I couldn’t be more proud.”

Michelago General Store supports the ‘buy local’ movement vigorously, through brands such as Bush Blend, Balzanelli Smallgoods and Dark Horse (Canberra), Happy Homesteader (Little Burra), Outback Fudge (Chakola) and Snowy Mountains Gifts (Jindabyne).

Belinda says she will also gladly put neighbours’ excess veggies, jams and other treats to good use in the cafe kitchen.

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Cheryl Kenyon has voiced her support for the new owners of the business she built alongside her late husband, Brian.

“It’s wonderful to see the shop grow and change just as the village has done over the past few years. It’s always been a place of support in one way or another,” she says.

“When kids went for a bike ride with friends, they’d meet at the shop. If you were putting on an open barbecue, you’d put a sign on our front door. Anyone needing a local with fencing, farming or building skills would ask us where to look.

“Our community really was built there. I’ll be forever grateful that myself, my husband, our children and grandchildren, who all grew up behind the counter, could be a part of that.”

Get in touch with Michelago General Store on (02) 6235 9041, or drop in to 50 Ryrie Street, Michelago to say g’day. You can also follow the shop’s day-to-day on Facebook.

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