A new era for Seaspray’s much-loved ‘front shop’

The much -loved Seaspray General Store has undergone a major makeover, while also giving a nod to its decades-long history. Pictured is new owner Fiona Lawrence, who opened the doors to customers yesterday.

Josh Farrell

The Seaspray General Store threw open its doors yesterday to once again serve the Seaspray community.
The general store has enjoyed a much-deserved facelift, but still holds the history and memories of years gone by.
Fiona Lawrence took over the property on October 4, and in just three weeks has renovated and revamped the site — with helping hands from many generous people in the community.
“My family in Melbourne was supposed to come down and help with the renovations,” Fiona said.
“The town has all come down and done something to help get it up and running.”
Fiona is the ninth person to run the ‘front shop’, which was established in the late 1960s by Fred and Zofia Bavra.
The Bavras owned the shop for about 10 years before they sold it to Hans and Elka Klassen in the late 1970s, who ran the shop until 1986 when Pauline and Dennis Cull took over the leasehold of the business.
In 1991 the Culls sold the leasehold to Vince Berlingeri, and in 1992 the leasehold again passed on to Russell and Janelle Stewart, before going to Greg Hill and his wife.
The Klassons sold the freehold and leasehold to Len and Barb Walsh in the late 1990s.
Mo Elkersh bought the shop in October 2004 with his wife Vicki, and Mo continued to own the shop until this month when Fiona Lawrence became the newest owner of this much-loved Seaspray institution.

Seaspray General Store manager Doug Francis and owner Fiona Lawrence are delighted with the revamped store, which opened yesterday. Photo: Josh Farrell

Those who have great memories of the store will recognise a great deal in the updated store.
The old counters remain — just with a slight upgrade.
The floor has been left as-is to show all the additions that have been made across the many years of operation, to give patrons a view into the history of the store.
Fish and chips will still be coming out of the front door on warm summer days, and the sign above the counter painted long ago will remain as a homage to members of the Seaspray community who painted it.
The post office will still be a part of the store, and it has stayed open all through renovations to ensure the community still had access to mail services.
Seaspray General Store has been a labour of love for new owner Fiona, who fell in love with the site five years ago.
“My husband was a generational resident of Seaspray — his family are farmers down here,” she said.
“We would come down here every summer to be with his family.
“When he passed I came down here just for a week … and I am still here,” she said.
Those who visit the store can go to the coffee window to pick up a brew before heading off for a walk along the beach.Or they can venture into what will soon become the retro corner, with retro foods, a record player and a retro couch to give visitors a reminder of summer beach trips decades earlier.
All counters and shelves have been redone using locally-sourced timber, giving the store its classic beach vibe.
Visitors can pick up a newspaper every morning on the way to work or before heading off for a day of adventure, or stop by on the way home for a bottle of local wine for dinner.
“I just love the retro feel,” Fiona said.
“We are really trying to highlight all the great parts of central Gippsland — celebration of all things Gippsland.”
Residents and visitors will be able to sample some of Gippsland’s best.

Gippsland Jersey is the milk of choice, and Anderson’s eggs from Giffard and Maffra Cheese Co offerings are also in the fridges for patrons to choose from.
Kids need not panic — the lolly counter will be up and running with plenty of lollies to choose from behind the refurbished counter.
For the adults, the store has a wide variety of local wines including from Toms Cap Vineyard, Glenmaggie Wines and Blue Gables Vineyard.
The Gippsland Times visited on Friday and in that short time, the store had several people popping by to pick up their mail and look around — some even picked up their milk and paper.

Seaspray caravan park co-manager Kim Courtney is preparing for a big summer ahead.

Seaspray Caravan Park is also gearing up for a big summer ahead, with restrictions set to ease just in time for the summer season. Park co-manager Kim Courtney feels everything is coming together in the town for a bumper summer.
“The whole town is excited,” she said.
The general store reopening after renovations has also helped breathe new life into Seaspray.
“It’s energising the whole town, you can just feel the energy,” Kim said.
The park is already booked out for the Christmas period through to January 3.
With COVID vaccination rates increasing and rules easing, Kim expects it will be teeming with guests.
The park has continued to update facilities throughout lockdowns and lower attendance numbers to ensure it is raring to go for the summer season.
“We are constantly updating; we are always trying to do something,” Kim said.
“You can see we are updating the deck [to the kiosk] and we just want everything looking great.”
Kim exudes optimism, which represents the way the town is feeling as it moves towards summer.
Seaspray is a hive of activity, with tradies at work all over the town.
Surveying the caravan park behind her, Kim is excited for the future.
“The park is in great condition and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back,” she said.