By Emily Friedel
Nice Shop is packed with handmade and hand-picked delights showcased in vintage cabinets. Each carefully displayed item has its own unique story, whether it’s handcrafted by one of the owners or selected for its potential to ignite the imagination.
Co-owner Elizabeth McQueen says that it’s the histories of items and the people associated with them that form the foundation of their business.
“It’s amazing in a small business like this how connected you are to people’s stories and that’s what actually keeps you going, it’s not the sales,” she says.
Anne Mannion, the other half of the Nice Shop business, gives an example of one of these stories.
“We had one couple come back after the first lockdown and Elizabeth had this beautiful galah that she’d made – it was gorgeous. The guy picked it up and was walking around holding it and said, ‘we’ve been dying to come back here’. They’ve been back recently and looking for another one because they give them to their great nieces or nephews when they’re born.”
Of course, Anne and Elizabeth also have their narratives to contribute to the shop’s accumulated stories. For Anne, hers is all about a love of fabrics and textiles.
“My mother taught me to sew, and it was something I just clicked with. So I went into the ‘rag trade’ as we used to refer to it and spent years in various positions within manufacturing companies. Then I veered into the corporate world but still continued to sew because it’s my relaxation,” she says.
At Nice Shop, Anne’s passion for fabric has translated into selling her handmade cushions and lamps she has reinvigorated with custom lampshades. She also brings old lamps back to life with the help of her husband who takes care of the electrical side of things.
“My husband is qualified to ‘tag and test’, so can fix vintage lamps. I’m very lucky that I have that because it’s not a service a lot of electricians will do,” Anne says.
For Elizabeth, who is passionate about mental health advocacy, her story illustrates the importance of having a close-knit community.
“I’ve got significant mental health issues. In our partnership, Anne and I offer each other different strengths, and I have gone more and more behind the scenes because I don’t cope with sitting behind the desk. I’ve wanted to leave this business many times, and Anne has buoyed me many times over the years and stepped in when I simply haven’t been able to do it,” she says.
Anne explains that their need for flexibility in running the shop means their opening hours may change regularly, but customers seem to be very understanding and friends have lent a helping hand when needed to help keep things ticking over.
While they’ve gladly received support and understanding from others, Anne and Elizabeth also work hard to give back. A prime example is their rapid pivot to supplying the community with masks designed by Elizabeth to overcome early pandemic shortages.
“After the initial lockdown we converted Elizabeth’s bedroom into a mask-making workshop and opened the shop at set hours to sell masks in the courtyard. We felt so rewarded by our locals who came out to buy masks and thanked us for our efforts,” Ann says.
When not supplying essentials during large-scale crises, Anne and Elizabeth aim to provide all their customers with a range of handmade and carefully selected products they can cherish at prices they can afford.
“I’ve been a parent throughout the business, and a lot of what I’ve chosen [to sell] has been informed by the age of my own children. But I’ve never wanted to face a parent or child picking something up and having them go ‘oh my goodness’ and putting it straight back down again [because it’s too expensive]. We are able to offer a lot of things at below recommended retail prices because of our personal business model,” Elizabeth says.
Coming up to Christmas, the pair also plans to offer visitors a shop stocked with the usual favourites along with some exciting new items. And there will be a Christmas nook filled with festive cheer, including Anne and Elizabeth’s handmade decorations, complimentary gift wrapping, and Muddle Puddle puddings, cakes, and shortbreads.
So these holidays, visitors will have a chance to add their Christmas shopping trip to the tapestry of personal tales woven into Nice Shop over the years. Whatever their customers’ reasons for coming in, Anne and Elizabeth appreciate finding out about them.
“It’s about hearing stories and creating stories. That’s what we’re really in the business of,” Elizabeth says.
For more information on Nice Shop in Yes, you can find them on Facebook and Instagram (just search for Nice Shop Yea). For a private consultation with Anne regarding lamps, feel free to contact her on 0413 489 196