Upon returning to our childhood stomping ground here in West/South Gippsland, I’ve noticed a few changes…there’s a fantastic farmers market in Warragul these days, new food businesses popping up, a hum about town which wasn’t there before. One of the boxes to tick in the place where we want to put down more permanent roots, and raise our family, was that of a fantastic community full of resources, events and small businesses of like minded people – you know, like Kate has in Daylesford, Amy has in Fish Creek, Beth has in the Southern Highlands, Michelle has in the Huon Valley and Sophie has in Orange. Perhaps…it has been under our noses this whole time.
Strolling through the arcade in Warragul, where once Mr Fox who tuned my piano as a little girl had his music shop, there was a new shop just open for business – a produce store full to the brim full of all sorts of local deliciousness. I poked my head into Stella’s Pantry, and thought you guys might want to take a peek too…
See?! I was beside myself that Warragul had something like this on offer – sleepy Warragul, all grown up and joining the foodie revolution. Mr Fox’s granddaughter Isabella, along with friend Stacey, have dived head first into their food adventures with Stella’s Pantry, focusing on local farmers and the very best products ranging from jams and preserves to sea salt and quinoa to local cheeses and terrines. A wander around Stella’s Pantry had my mind exploding with potential meals to be created in our new home’s kitchen. And that’s exactly what Bella and Stacey would like their customers to experience:
“Our mission is to become part of the community. We are not just another store, Stella’s Pantry is a destination where you can explore and enjoy finding delicious products. As a valued customer we want you to feel confident with the purchases you make. We hope to hear about the amazing meals you share with your friends and family when you next return to the store.”
The store is built on an ethos of sharing with family, friends, the wider community – quite literally! All of the shop fit-out was sourced from family members, grandparents sheds, handmade from recycled materials by loved ones. Stella’s Pantry is a true labour of love, people coming together to create a beautiful space, to share good, simple, delicious food.
“Stella’s Pantry has been years in the making. We have always talked about opening a business together. Last year, around October, we decided to go ahead with it. I was living at Mackay at the time and about to embark on a six week adventure around America. Stacey was working at Jones the Grocer. The shop was put together in around four weeks. A lot of love has been put into this shop. We thank all our family and friends for lending a hand. It’s wonderful looking around the store being reminded of all the people who have helped along the way. As you walk into our store your eyes may be drawn to the magnificent lead light. This light was put together especially for our store by Stacey’s grandmother Joyce. We thank Bryce and the boys from Bucknall Electrical for installing it and making our shop beautiful and bright. We salvaged drawers and shelves whilst renovating. Our wall of shelving was constructed by Michael McCormack from Project 41, my partners brother. Stacey raided her grandfather’s shed for old spud crates and wire baskets to hold our products. Painting was made easy as we had all the ladies in to help. Pumping up the tunes helped us get through the weekend. We are excited to finally be home and having so many familiar faces and so many new faces coming into our pantry to share these wonderful products with us!”
Both Stacey and Bella have arrived at the point of creating Stella’s Pantry on very different paths, but knowing their history you can see that this labour of love is exactly where they belong.
Bella: “I grew up in Gippsland and loved biology at school so I decided to do a science degree, majoring in botany and zoology. A lot has happened since then – I still have a keen interest for research. I’ve spent the last two years in Mackay working in the sugar cane industry. I’ve always been interested in food, I never stop eating, I was a real sweet tooth. Since a few health issues, suffering dietary intolerance and mostly a lack of energy I embarked on a journey with my aunty, Theresa Commadeur, who is a naturopath. I work each day on feeling better, being more self-caring and listening to my body’s needs. As a result, the food I eat (I don’t like the word diet) has changed. That’s what is really driving me at the moment. Working on my own health and sharing my ideas, research and experiences with others. In the near future I hope to embark on further studies in nutrition/ become a health coach. My business partner Stacey has always wanted to own her own shop. I’ve wanted to create something for myself for a while now so the timing was right to put our interest together to form Stella’s Pantry. What a perfect platform to explore both our interests further!”
Stacey: “Growing up I would spend my weekends at my grandparent’s farm in Nilma North where I would help my grandpa in his garden and grandma in the kitchen, learning all I could about food from the both of them. For the last 12 years I have been working with food in both retail and hospitality learning as much as possible to prepare me for opening this business. I was lucky enough to travel to both the Middle East and Spain for my last job and learnt a great deal about different cuisine and cultures, I can’t wait for the day I go back to Spain. I love food, cheese in particular, as I am intrigued by the diversity of products that all start from four basic ingredients – milk, salt, rennet and starter culture! I love sharing all the wonderful products that are available with the people of Warragul and surrounds.”
Bravo girls – Stella’s Pantry is such a welcome addition to the town, and I really hope it is embraced, celebrated and becomes an important piece of Warragul’s evolving food story.
Stella’s Pantry can be found at Shop 16, Warragul Plaza, Victoria Street, Warragul. You can also find their Facebook page here or on Instagram @stellaspantry.