The ulitmate sea change took place for Belinda and Craig a few months back. Now, these newly appointed locals are sharing their business with us all. FOCUS caught up with Belinda and Craig to get a quick insight into Aussie Bush Leather.
Welcome to Forster. We are so excited to have you open Aussie Bush Leather here on the Mid North Coast. Can you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Craig: I started wholesaling souvenirs products back in 1989 to duty free stores throughout Australia from my parents’ house in St Marys, Sydney and later moved into a factory in 1992. A retired handbag designer, John Dwinger stared working for me and transformed the business from manufacturing souvenir lines to producing high end fashion leather lines. The business rapidly expanded into producing over 300 lines of products and employing over 30 people; it has undergone many transformations over the years, moving to Tamworth 24 years ago.
Belinda: I met Craig six years ago and have come from a background of design and marketing. I completed a fashion design degree in Brisbane, worked within the industry for a number of years and moved back to Tamworth in the ‘90s, working in the media as well as in marketing and also running my own business.
I have a love for interior design and when I met Craig, I was inspired by the leather business and made a number of design and branding changes to it, and together we have created the business as it is today.
Both Craig and I have been raised in the country and have a strong rural background; we love working with our hands and creating and designing our products, knowing that they will stand the test of time. Our customers regularly come in with items they have purchased many years before and are delighted to show us how well they have lasted. This is our motivation and drive to continue making Australian made products. Between us we have seven wonderful children and six grandchildren and are both so very proud of them all.
You have moved from Tamworth; what was the decision behind the sea change?
Two years ago we ended up unexpectedly in Forster on a holiday; we immediately fell in love
with the place. We then bought here and started regularly visiting, each time finding it more difficult to leave.
We have met and made friends so easily here and have found the community so supportive at all levels, so we decided to make the move while we can (after 14 truckloads, never again!)
We both enjoy a challenge, and working so we get to live and work in one of the most scenic places in Australia and continue with the business.
What are you looking forward to the most about living and working here in Forster?
Forster is such a beautiful place, and we both really love being near the water. Each morning we take our two dogs for a run on the beach, which is such a great way to start the day.
We feel that Forster is in an exciting stage of growth with the current developments that are happening, and we are really looking forward to being part of this transition both personally and with our business.
When things settle down after the holiday period, we are planning to explore the surrounding region, as there is so much on offer here.
Can you give us a brief overview of your business?
We source beautiful quality leathers from Australia and around the world and create in our factory a unique and varied range of leather goods, from handbags, wallets, travel goods, UGG boots and accessories for all age groups. Our products are hand crafted, yet still functional for modern day use, whilst still maintaining timeless appeal.
The business has been in operation in Tamworth for the past 24 years, and we have recently moved both the manufacturing and the retail outlets to Forster for our “sea change”. In the past, along with our retail outlet, we have had a strong presence in duty free and airport stores around Australia with the wholesaling arm of the business. Our focus now is the growth and development of our online store, plus building and showcasing our products in our new store in Wharf St, Forster. We enjoy finding other like-minded artisans and have a variety of products from other iconic Australian manufacturers available in store.
What are some of the favourite products you sell?
We love the variety of products we offer to our customers. Another arm of our business is finding and re-upholstering aged furniture pieces and bringing them back to life again. We enjoy seeing the transformation that takes place; we source furniture from retro pieces of the ‘70s back to the mid 1800s. We can also help restore those special pieces of furniture that have been passed on through the family, and give them a new look with our leathers or cowhides for them to be used for future generations.
What can readers expect when they visit your shop?
The smell of leather! This is always the first comment we get when customers enter our store, then they are amazed by the lay out of the shop, the beautiful products we have and the extensive range we carry in store, plus the fact our brand Aussie Bush Leather is Australian made and now made here in Forster.