AFTER nine years of countless pizzas, coffees, drinks and laughs with their regulars, Kernot Food and Wine Store owners Julie and Paul Johnston have regretfully decided that it is time to move on.
Caring for their elderly parents who have since passed away, has made it a tough five years for Paul and Julie, who say that they are left without the energy to give the store the attention it needs.
“We are bone tired now, we’re very sad about having to let it go but it’s what we need to do for our own good,” Julie said.
The historic store first opened its doors in 1911 and has passed through 15 different owners before it got to Paul and Julie, and has served as post office, milk bar phone exchange and more for the small town.
It is clear from the moment you walk in, that the Kernot community is hugely important to the owners, and everything they do at the store.
Julie has previously been treasurer of the hall committee, and on the counter, there is always a tin collecting funds for the local CFA brigade, and the store is filled with certificates of appreciation from local schools, sports clubs and other groups for the support the store has given them.
“It has been so wonderful putting on the food, drinks, and music for Kernot. The love we get from everyone here and the love we give them has made it so hard to let it go, but it’s time now.”
Julie worked at the store for the previous owners, she and Paul snapped at the opportunity to make it their when it last came up for sale.
It is hard to pick a highlight for Julie, who says she doesn’t regret a moment of her time there, but the formation of local band ‘The Kernot Country Boys’ and their regular performances, is right up there.
The sky is the limit for whoever takes over the store next, Julie says, noting that if someone young with lots of energy decides to take it on, the Kernot Store could be the next big thing.
Julie and Paul have put plenty of work into the store, giving it a new roof, fixing up the toilets and kitchen, and most importantly, making peace with store’s the ghosts.
That’s right, Julie is adamant that the ghosts of a previous owner from the 1940s, Lily Blanche Walker, still remains at the store and occasionally gives her and the kitchen staff a fright.
‘Toots’, as Julie has nicknamed the ghost, has never caused any harm though.
“She’s mostly friendly,” Julie jokes.
Julie and Paul hope that they will be able to find the right person to take on the mantle, because as well as being a popular stop for tourists, the store is most important to them as a meeting place for Kernot locals.