Mac’s Store is legendary to most Byron locals having been the drop in point on Bangalow Road for everything from a burger to a carton of milk for as long as I can remember!
We were stoked to hear that local Ben Gordon and his business partner Phil Taylor bought the building and they have just re-opened as The Byron Bay General Store. We had a quick chat to find out more about what they are up to.
KP – For those that don’t know you Ben, tell us a little (or a lot) about yourself.
I’ve lived in Byron my entire life, my parents have lived here since the early 70’s. I could not have asked for a better childhood – surfing, fishing, kayaking and doing everything that Byron is now extremely popular for, but back when it was just a small community and you knew everyone in town.
Some friends and I started a band when I was 16 and somehow that has turned into a 15-year career (and counting) in which we have travelled the globe numerous times, won all sorts of awards, had several gold records and played to millions of people around the world.
We named the band after the street which we first practiced on which was in my family house on Parkway Drive.
Now we are getting older, we are slowing down a little and able to spend more time at home. This has given me time to pursue other ventures. My business partner Phil Taylor is originally from NZ but has lived in Byron for around 10 years.
When I first saw that old Macs Store was for sale my first thought was that it would be such a shame if it got into the hands of a rich city developer type person who planned to level it or make it some wanky Melbourne cafe that didn’t fit in Byron, which is happening so much around town.
It’s no secret that Byron is changing rapidly and that more and more people are moving here, however, I really feel that the more long-term locals that can hold on to Commercial property and businesses the longer we will be able to retain Byron’s soul and personality. So basically after much deliberation, I decided to try to take the matter into my own hands and from there everything else has kind of fallen into place.
KP – How does the business give back to the community how?
Serving the local community as well as being environmentally friendly were our two biggest goals from the very start. Personally, I feel that Byron has been missing something like this for a long time. A place with a community feel that is designed for locals, somewhere that has vibe and people of all ages and demographics are comfortable and somewhere outside of town so we don’t have to face the ever-present congestion.
We have tried to create a space with a friendly atmosphere where everyone is welcome, we have a kids play area, a dog area, many different seating options, we offer healthy organic food, many vegan and vegetarian options as well as sustainably sourced meat options and we have tried our best to retain a modest price point while still having quality food.
We also have made a big effort to support local products and local farmers, we predominantly hire local staff rather than going for backpackers at a cheaper rate and we also currently offer a 10% discount for riding or walking, so hopefully, that means fewer cars on the road and essentially less traffic and emissions.
KP – What are you hoping to achieve with the business?
What we want is the satisfaction of having a place that community wants and appreciates. Somewhere that retains the community feel. I didn’t do this just to try and make some money, my goal from the start was to do something that I feel proud of.
We’ve only been open just over a week. Seeing people enjoying this iconic space again and hearing the community feedback on the food and the overall experience, I can honestly say I’m already feeling proud of what we’ve done. We plan to continue to work on improving the space, our food and the overall customer experience constantly.
KP – What is unique about your business?
We were never planning to reinvent the wheel. We simply wanted to create a nice aesthetically pleasing space where everyone feels welcome, with good vibes, friendly staff, comfortable seating and quality healthy food. Somewhere that you go and you’re more than likely to see a familiar friendly face. A meeting place so to speak.
Apart from that, I think if there’s anything that makes us unique it would be the history of the building, the location – on the main road outside of town and the fact that it is owned and operated by locals which are becoming scarcer these days.
We also want to lead the charge with a lot of things such as being environmentally active. Currently, we offer a 10% discount for riding or coming by foot to try and help get cars off the road and therefore reducing emissions. We are also about 80% solar powered, support local farmers, support companies with recyclable or compostable packaging and want to keep striving to lessen our footprint.
KP – What is the history of the building and why did you go with the look you did?
When we first started we didn’t really know what to do or what to call it. We considered keeping it “Macs”, but then we started to really look into the history of the building and everything changed.
It was first built in 1947 by Harold and Anstes Wall and was a general store known by the locals as “Walls Store”. Then, in the late 70’s it got sold on to become “Greys Store” then sold again and named “Craigs Store” and then finally in the late 80’s was bought by the McCormick family and Changed to “Macs Milkbar”. So after discovering this, we realised that it had been a general store for the majority of its existence, therefore our thinking was to take it back to its roots and simply call it “The Byron Bay General Store”.
When I was given the old original photo of the place there was a description of it… it read “The shop was a general store, selling groceries and green groceries, and took in dry cleaning. Unlike today many grocery items then had to be weighed and packed, usually in brown paper bags. The shop was also a meeting place for a number of very local identities who would take up the few chairs in the store and spend time discussing local gossip and general chitchat”
As far as the look, we just designed it as we went along. My Dad has been a builder for 55 years and retired a few years ago, but I managed to convince him to help us out, as well as our main builder Steve from eco-tech constructions. So Dad added an old-school element to the building it by implementing his techniques of building. He made the windows and doors by hand and we used nearly all recycled timber to give it more feel and character.
The Byron Bay General Store is on Bangalow Road.
You can follow them on:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Byrongeneralstore/
Instagram – byron_general_store