THERE is something about the cosiness of a classic general store.

First, it’s the jingle of the doorbell and the “how’re going, love” inviting you in from behind the counter, followed by a glimpse of the classic pie warmer in the back and a fridge stocked with the milk your mum told you not to forget.

Even staring into the fully stocked ice-cream freezer at the Golden Gaytimes, Calippos and Drumsticks conjures warm fuzzies of memories that transport you to the summers where you’d ride a bike to your local with cousins in tow.

But general stores are more than pie warmers or a litre of milk.

Whether you reside in the remotest corner of rural Victoria or just a stone’s throw from a busy shopping strip, the few remaining classic general stores across Gippsland are a community’s lifeline.

They are a post office, supplying basics at a pinch, and they are a social hub, best for the fleeting morning “hey, how’re you going’s” as you duck in to grab a coffee before work or school drop off.

Happily, the Newry General Store is still all that. It is the quintessential general store: convenient, inviting, and the service is terrific.

In October 2022, this piece of Newry’s history was bought by tree changers Cheryl and Michael Doyle, or as you’ll come to call them if you pop by the store, Chez and Mick.

Since then, they’ve given the “old girl” – as Mick warmly calls the store – a facelift and injected enthusiasm into what the couple are making of their “semi-retirement” lifestyle as business owners.

Mick said the decision to settle in Newry was about learning to slow down.

“It was getting harder to get to the grandkids with COVID and everything, so we thought, let’s just go and have a look. We didn’t wanna move into the grandkid’s back pockets but to be somewhere closer,” Mick said.

It is no secret that COVID-19 altered how people value and spend their time in the present. For the Doyle’s, being closer to their children and grandchildren prompted their move to Gippsland.

The couple, who herald from Wahgunyah on the Murray River, said that while the move brought them six hours further south, they understand the small-town mentality.

While admiring the new paint job and the coffee bars wrapped around the veranda pillars, the couple told the Gippsland Times they are committed to their new community.

“Part of being here is to show the public that we’re investing (in the community),” Mick said.

“We’re getting good feedback. It’s about getting some life into the town; we don’t wanna come in here and turn it into McDonald’s or anything like that, but to get it looking fresh and get people’s curiosities going.”

Chez added, “We’re about community. Community means a lot to us, you know. We’ve come from small, we haven’t come from large thinking we’re gonna take over the world. No, it’s about doing this for everybody.”

You’ll find Chez behind the counter and Mick in the post office nook at Newry General Store. Photos: Erika Allen

As Cheryl began a tour of the store’s interior, explaining the idea behind the informal just grab and go ‘book swap’, the phone trill signalled a customer’s call.

A few seconds later, with spectacles perched on the bridge of his nose, Mick peered out of the post office nook tucked into the wall by the store’s entrance.

“You got and onions?” he asked his wife (a local that had just been in to pick up a paper was calling back to enquire).

“I’ve got one,” Chez replied.

A few minutes later, she dashed outside to hand-deliver said onion to the customer, imploring her to stay in the car throughout the transaction.

It’s one thing to talk the talk, but Chez and Mick appear to be hands-on owners.

Whether it’s pouring their money into fixing up the 100-year-old store’s façade with new signs, a fresh lick of paint, and custom coffee benches courtesy of some local handiwork, the couple certainly have the passion and drive to make the Newry General Store something locals can not only remain proud of, but rely on into the future.

The Newry General Store has been a pillar of the community for more than 100 years, and it is a testament to the community that, unlike others of its kind, the store has retained its classic charm and familiarity.

“We’re all about the history as well,” Mick said.

When they were breaking ground to re-stump the store, Mick found old Sale bricks, which he said, “Might not mean much to people but were actually made in Sale back in the day, and so I’ve put em all around the garden.”

Pride goes a long way in small communities.

Whether you’re the proud business owner or the customer who relies on it, local stores are the lifeline of our communities.