Gerringong Co-Op bought by locals

The historic Gerringong Co-Op, by the railway station, is to be given a new life after being bought by locals for $2.25 million, over a million dollars above the reserve set by the receivers.

The new owners are the Matters family, founders and operators of the popular Hill Bar & Grill and Gather by the Hill, and David Phillips and his wife Charlene Dawson, who have lived in Gerringong for twenty years.

Mr Phillips, a senior investment banker who is originally from Nowra, describes the property as the last uncut diamond in our area.

“By uncut diamond I mean a great asset with enormous potential that just needs some polishing.”

He says he and his wife had been looking for an project for some time, and the chance to do it with the Matters made sense.

“If you look at what Melissa has done with The Hill and Gather, you can get a sense of the standard we are looking at.

“A place like this will be another building block in bringing people to Gerringong.”

Currently zoned light industrial, the possibilities for the 4385m2 site are endless.

A Kiama Farmers’ Market pop-up dinner showed the potential of the building as a venue. Photo: Peter Izzard Photography

“We’ve had some initial discussions, and we think it lends itself to a function/wedding reception venue but there are other possibilities,” says Mr Phillips.

“We really have to put our thinking caps on about what are the best things to put there, so that it attracts people throughout the week, not just on the weekends.

“Whatever we do, we need to work with Council so that they are supportive of what we are trying to achieve.”

The renovations required to make it into a destination attraction will require significant capital investment, likely to be done in stages.

“We are very focused on doing it correctly, to the level that we think it deserves,” says Mr Phillips.

“I honestly think that what we will end up with there will be something that everyone will be proud of.”

Despite the size of the project, he says things are likely to happen relatively quickly.

“All of us are people who like to get get things done, so the grass isn’t going to grow under our feet.”

Formed in 1888, the Gerringong Co-Operative Dairy Society moved to the new brick building in 1908.

A produce store was added in 1935, with hardware, building supplies and other merchandising outlets added in the 1970s, and a further extension in 1982.

Until its closure in 2000, the Gerringong Co-Operative was the longest continuing co-op in Australia.

The property has a heritage listing in the Kiama Local Environment Plan.

As a member of the Miller family which helped establish the Co-Op, Melissa Matters has childhood memories of it, which gives the project a special appeal.

The property was previously sold for $950,000 in 2014, and used as a distillery and wine outlet.

Plans by the previous owner to use it as a function venue failed to come to fruition.

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