Clara Goodwin happy in her Cooroy store.
Clara Goodwin happy in her Cooroy store.

Classical Cooroy style of Clara's longevity

Clara Goodwin has tried to retire. Several times. But she found it not to her liking. The 73-year-old, has been in retailing for almost 40 years, and she is still firing on despite the turmoils many retailers find themselves in.

Her latest endeavour began three years ago, after her fourth or maybe fifth attempt at retirement, when she opened Blue Brown Bag in the hinterland town of Cooroy.

She calls her shop The Little Emporium on Maple St because of its collection of fragrances, clothing, accessories, décor and gifts.

"We have developed the shop to be a destination," Clara said "We are always busy. I like to be busy. This is my 10th store."

While most retailers aged 73 who have had a lifetime of experience and hard work would run for cover at the thought of keeping going in these trying times, Clara feels just the opposite, and says it is the interaction with people she experiences every day that motivates her.

"I love being able to get away on buying trips, going interstate, having fun girls to work with (in the shop.) That is my motivation to get up in the morning. It is all about people. It keeps me going. I have also had to get a handle on IT such as Facebook and Instagram. Companies do business very differently now."

Clara opened her first shop, My Cookery Nook, in Newcastle, in 1980. She then went onto open and operate two shops in Brisbane, Surprise Surprise, and Presentable, then settled in Noosa where her Country Collections store became one of the most stylish and popular in town.

"I then went to retire in Bowral in NSW, but opened three stores there, Into Living, the Blue Brown Bag, and Cook Shop Plus," Clara said "My kitchen store won the Top Homewares in Australia award in 2005, and represented Australia in America against 23 other countries, and got named in the Top 5."

After her success in Bowral, Clara returned to Queensland to retire yet again, this time in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. But once more, retail called to her.

"I started Cooroy Shoes and Accessories, and there I was back again," she said.

Now, still in Cooroy but at the helm of Blue Brown Bag, Clara is as happy as she has ever been and determined to keep going.

"Working makes me get up every day makes me want to dress," she said "It keeps me younger, I have to dress to the fashion. I can't be at home. As much as I love putting my feet up, it doesn't do anything for me. You have to have a purpose. My mother is 99. She still puts her pearls on every day."

Lasting so long in the competitive retail industry means Clara is now dealing with another generation of suppliers than she began with.

"I used to deal with the dads, now I am dealing with the grandchildren," she said "I go to trade fairs and it is not the dad I see, not the son, but the grandchildren."

A 43-year marriage to husband Kevin, a team of loyal staff, an entrepreneurial son and three adored grandchildren, have all obviously helped Clara continue working and to maintain energy and optimism. It also helps to work in a pretty country town where everybody knows each other.

"The Cooroy community is very loyal," she said. "The businesses here are successful, there are no empty shops, the activity is amazing. People come to Cooroy because they want that bit of country, that community spirit. I think that's sadly lacking in a lot of places."

A philosophy of 'if you still have the energy at a certain age, look for something to do' is all part of Clara Goodwin's success.

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