“We are still here” - Kyabram business owners’ plea to locals

By Jared Prestwidge

LOCAL business owners have one thing to say to the residents of Kyabram: “Yes, we are here, and yes, we are open.”

In the wake of regional Victoria being moved to stage three restrictions due to the continuing growth of COVID-19, Kyabram’s Allan St strip has almost instantly slowed from a bustling hub of activity to a crawl.

And Kyabram’s businesses, the lifeblood of the town, have naturally taken a hit as a result.

Ky Lucky Lotto owner Miles Gould said he had seen a noticeable drop in consumer activity since the announcement earlier this month.

“We’ve seen the street get a lot quieter, which you can expect. And because of the confusion with stage three and stage four, and the way it has been reported by central media, there is a lot of confusion. We just want to allay that confusion and say that we as a town are open, and we are here for you,” he said.

“Generally speaking, it is the businesses that support and sponsor our local sporting groups as well as town activities. By keeping your spending local, you are supporting your community. Let’s stick together in these different times, so we can all come out of it at the other end.”

Mr Gould said while it was the second time Kyabram has been put in stage three restrictions, this time it was much a different scenario due to the enormous number of cases recorded in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

“It was a little bit different. This time because Melbourne has gone to stage four, there is that confusion and a lot of it is due to the reporting and [Premier] Daniel Andrews’ comments, and regional Victoria has been pushed to the back a bit,” he said.

“Regional Victorians are resilient, and we want to prove that and show that we are here, we want to be here for the long haul, but we need the community’s help so we can help the community in turn.

“We are seeing some really good examples of some great things going around … people are happy to do whatever they can. The taking up of the mask-wearing has been fantastic.”

Fab Flowers owner Sue Walley said she had encountered several customers unsure about the rules, especially older residents.

“People think that we have to be closed because of the restrictions. They think it is like Melbourne where we have to be closed and can’t operate. Some businesses can’t be open, like beauticians. There’s a lot of confusion there,” she said.

“In the past when things have happened like factories have closed and the whole Banksia thing, the town has been very, very supportive.

“All businesses will be doing some kind of contactless deliveries or have something in place to make sure people still shop local.”

Mr Gould said while he understood some people may be unwilling to leave their home, all businesses had put every possible precaution in place.

“Now more than ever it is vital to support your local businesses. A lot of businesses have adapted to different models to remain in operation — they should be congratulated,” he said.

“Some businesses have arranged contactless service — that can be over-the-phone consults, or home deliveries. They’ve all got their COVID plans in place, just ask, because I’m sure they’ll do their very best to help you.

“All businesses have organised social distancing precautions. We have places for people to stand, there’s hand sanitiser stations and everyone is encouraged to wear masks.

“As a town that hasn’t got a case, we’re doing everything we can to make sure we don’t get a case.”

And as for the future, Mr Gould, who has spent the past seven years toiling for his business in Kyabram, said he could see the light at the end of the tunnel — everyone just needed to work together.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure there isn’t a worst-case scenario, that we are a positive community, so let’s move forward and make sure we’re supporting each other,” he said.

“The local business owners are not big CEOs, they’re within your community and raising families. They’re the ones who give back to your local communities. Let’s support them, they will support you back.

“We want our sporting clubs to survive, and we want our kids in particular to be able to have something to do down the track.

“We’ve got a really good town here — we just need to keep it.”

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