There’s a Goddess painted on a closed roller door and a peacock on another. I’m at the market entrance. My shop front door. The Original Kuranda Markets in Kuranda, Far North Queensland. The village in the rainforest is still to wake up. It’s quiet except for the bird calls and insects buzzing. Nature at her finest. A car wizzes by, there is life. Keys rattling, braking the peace of a misty mountain morning, a perfect 26 degrees, it’s a beautiful day to open the shop.
A delightful emanation of incense permeates the senses as I go in and turn the lights and music on. I’m touching something magical. This is Abra Kadabra Kuranda, and it smells good. Gentle undertones of sage and sandalwood helping me to focus and get the shop organised for the day.
It takes about forty minutes and requires about a months training to know how to set up the shop properly. It’s the start of my work day, but it doesn’t feel like work. Colourful locals walk by greeting each other by first names, I know most of them. There’s a social hush over the village before the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the cable car brings holidaymakers to my doorstep from all corners of the globe.
Music is usually Pink Floyd or Fiona Horne as they’re about the only tunes I can listen too all day without going mad. Soon, there will be a shop full of people. All nationalities, languages, cultures, ages and dispositions.
You see, hear in Kuranda we are half and half. Half black and half white, and in our town two halves make a whole.
Originally starting out with a SEVS/ NEIC state and federal combined scheme to help the long term unemployed gain and retain employment back in the 1980’s, to start their own small business enterprises. I became a success story of that scheme. With the help of government aid, I registered and opened a small outlet in the Original Kuranda Market and started trading.
Having dabbled with being treasurer of the local Amphitheatre and President of the associated amateur theatre Focus, been a “Meet and greet” lady for the village, an initiative by the local Chamber of Commerce and giving Yoga classes in the cemetery, I realised my calling was, and that I needed to concentrate on the opportunity I had been given.
By this stage, I was determined not to be Jack of all trades but rather a master of one. My shop not only provided income for myself and one or possibly two other people in an area with high unemployment figures, but it was my saving grace. I had found my vocation and my identity through the expression of my retail outlet, my commercial creation in the rainforest.
The first years I couldn’t go wrong, then the introduction of state GST, all of us traders thought it was the end of our businesses. Without the support of the local community and a good accountant I doubt I would have gotten through it at all.
Then came the global financial crash in 2008. My turnover wasn’t paying the bills, living off rice and cabbage, I had to come up with a business plan. It was do or die at that stage. It was scary times to be in business. I took the plunge and went bigger, taking on a double shop at the head of the markets. It was a gamble, a big call. I felt confident I had established enough local clientele to get me through, what we call, the quiet season. Having developed good relationships with wholesalers and gained enough experience in retail to keep my valuable little retail outlet going. I moved to a prominent position at the entrance of the markets.
Comments like: “this is my favourite shop in the village” and “my children love your shop, we can always find something appropriate in here and your always open for us.”, “ I love your shop”. These kind of comments instill me with pride and confidence as well as a desire and a responsibility to please my customers the best I can.
As a business owner in a small, rather unique tourist village with a high Aboriginal population, ones duties often go above and beyond that of which you would normally find in other towns or cities.
The shop is arranged for easy pram, walker, wheel chair access. We love the kids with disabilities coming in, they’re funny and they love the colour and fragrance stimulation. It’s good for them. Sometimes the kids just stop and look around after being completely overstimulated with sugar, they slow down, mouth open, wide eyed and just take it all in.
A wonderland of colour and scent.
When I’m working in my shop I wear many hats. Among them and besides being a shop keeper I am a tourist information bureau. I’m also the complaints department, ladies room directional officer, long lost acquaintance adviser, mobile phone finder. A teller, a tailor, a cleaner, a councillor, a boss and mentor, just to name a few.
I have trained and provided employment and resumes for many a local teenager. One of my employees went on to be a CEO in a large international corporation, another went on to be a forensic pathologist with the Australian Federal Police, some were just happy to have a job and some training on weekends and school holidays.
With a long retail history in the village and with over a million international travellers frequenting the village every year, I have found that I don’t necessarily have to travel the world, it comes to me. Who would ever have thought that I could come this far?
I feel I have been blessed in many ways or rather, many opportunities have come out of my little retail outlet both for myself, my employees and my community. A picturesque rural village with a quaint populous of talented and diverse residents that enrich my life on a daily basis.
Weather it’s a social chat, a deep conversation, a helping hand or just a friendly “good morning”, Abra Kadabra is a part of Kuranda’s identity. Serving the needs of the community and show casing a little part of our world, to the broader world.
Currently my lovely shop is in hibernation. Bearing down on me is a whole level of stress that is unprecedented. Being through past trials and tribulations I live in hope.
The Corona Virus pandemic has forced me, my business associates and employees to think differently about business and how it will be when we all emerge from our cocoons. The world will be different and we, the older generation will be the ones to guide, support, train and employ those that come after us.
The ones that will have to face the responsibilities and challenges of a brave new world.
Josette Salan/ Sole trader/ Proprietor of Abra Kadabra Kuranda.