So much history in one store

The Woodville Store is a piece of history that’s been serving Australians for more than 180 years. That’s a big feat for a small building but one that its new owners are taking in their stride.

The Kirwan family purchased The Woodville Store just over a year ago and with a vision to transform the historic general store into something that will be around for many more decades to come. “We want a store that has petrol – not a petrol station that has a bit of a store; with quality whole-foods, locally sourced produce and environmentally friendly products,” explained owner Zoey Kirwan.

Mike and Zoey Kirwan and their three children are Woodville locals and Mike has lived in the area for most of his life. “We used to drive past the store every single day and when we were inside – we could see its potential. The day we found out it was coming up for sale, we jumped on it,” said Mike, who previously worked in real estate.

“For us it’s about flexibility and freedom and spending more time with our family. We love the Woodville area and it’s really the people who make it. Everyone is here to help each other – and if we can make sure the store can continue to be a meeting place – then that’s great for all of us,” said Zoey.

History in store

The Woodville Store, located in the township of Woodville in the Lower Hunter Valley, can lay claim to being Australia’s oldest, continually running business, still offering the same services it was licensed for in 1844.

“From what we know, it was built down by the bridge in 1844 and moved here in 1863,” said Mike. “We had no idea it was the oldest business in Australia, no idea about the history. It’s had lots of owners and people are always coming in and telling us different stories about the history of this place.”

The Kirwans purchased the store from Stuart and Allison who now run The Coffee Cubby next door. There have been other owners, but most notably it was owned and operated by the Wilcher family for more than a century.

“Ms Wilcher is the one customers tell us about. She ran the post office which was located in the store. These old doors would swing out and there was a bench top where people could collect their mail and parcels,” said Zoey.

According to an article from the Maitland Mercury in 1988, when Ms Wilcher finally did retire after 62 years as post-mistress, Woodville residents rallied and successfully lobbied Australia Post to keep the post office running.

To this day, the Woodville Store still operates as a post office so locals can collect their parcels or fuel their vehicles; and now they can also shop for a range of items that go way beyond convenience.The historic general store stocks local and organic food and products and Mike explained why it’s anything but your typical convenience store.

Read more about the Woodville Store in our Autumn issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story and photography by Sally Maguire