steph and rhonda outside the Green Store in Trentham

The Green Store

Words by Catherine Atkinson
Images by Tara Moore

It is more important than ever to consider the environmental impact of the items we purchase. Some stores make this a simple process and the The Green Store, located in the heart of picturesque Trentham, is one such store. It is a family-owned business run by Rhonda and her two daughters, Kasie and Steph. They talked to Calder Western about all things green and sustainable, upcycling, the healing power of myotherapy and the joys of a regional lifestyle.

The Green Store sells products for the home, garden, body, and baby that are designed using natural, organic and ethically sourced materials. Can you talk a little about the history of the store?

Kasie: The Green Store began on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy in 1995. It was founded by Ann Eckersley, who later became a friend of Rhonda’s when they met doing an exercise class at Abbotsford Convent. The Green Store was one of the first of its kind in the eco-friendly sector of retail and continues today to be a champion of ethical and sustainable producers; with a focus on functional homewares, refillable cleaning and personal care products, natural skincare and Australian made gifts.

Ann had a long period of illness so Rhonda and I took over the management of the store in its Fairfield location in 2014. I was at university studying myotherapy. Sadly Ann passed in late 2014 and the future of the store looked bleak.

Rhonda loved the business, and we had both previously run retail businesses, so we decided to continue The Green Store legacy in Trentham. Luckily a beautiful space in Market Street was just nearing completion as Rhonda took a stroll around Trentham in early 2015. She got chatting to Ruurd De Visser, our landlord, and four and a bit years later we are still here.

What words of advice would you offer to people looking for a tree-change?

Rhonda: Make plenty of visits, spend some weekends and weekdays to get the feel before jumping in. The town of Trentham is very welcoming and I couldn't ask for a more wonderful place to retire or to raise a family.

How would you describe the store? Have you tried to create a certain ambience to the space?

Kasie: The interior of The Green Store has continually evolved since we opened. We brought the original recycled timber counter and table from the Fairfield store and we up-cycled, reused and revived as many bits and pieces as we could find to make the space welcoming and efficient. We blend and have aromatic essential oils burning which make the store smell amazing; every person that walks through the door comments on how fragrant the shop is. I love post-industrial furniture and vintage pieces so I love fossicking for bits for the store. Steph’s husband Will is the most talented builder, carpenter and, just for kicks has taught himself to blacksmith, so he has created beautiful details in the treatment room to hang robes and curtains. Rhonda is one of those gorgeous creatures who loves to switch furniture around and I think I caught it from her, so nothing bolted down stays in the same spot for very long!

Every Christmas we do a window display that stays up from Trentham Twilight Night, a month before Christmas, through December and we always recycle packaging creatively in an attempt to create something a bit different to your regular tinsel and tree routine. Last year we made a massive Christmas cracker with recycled packaging that hung from the roof. It was cracked open with ornaments coming out of the middle, and customers loved it.

Steph: We have tried to create a calm welcoming space, as much as a retail space can be!

What sources of inspiration help drive the store?

Kasie: I am personally inspired by the natural beauty around us here in Trentham, literally nestled by the Wombat State Forest and Lerderderg Forest, and wanting to preserve that as much as possible so future generations are not choking on rubbish.

Our mission with The Green Store is to gently change the way we all think about consuming. Let’s all start living more sustainably; just start with one thing and reduce the waste that households produce on an epic scale.

One of our tag-lines is “an old fashioned store for a modern world” and I think we can all slow down our use of single-use plastic, buy quality products that function well and when they are spent, can be thrown in the compost or can be recycled or refilled. That doesn’t mean sacrificing beauty and aesthetics. The Green Store helps you buy less and to choose the right product.

The Green Store seems to have a lovely business model: a gorgeous shop, in a beautiful regional town, that can sell products in-store and online. What challenges has the business faced?

Kasie: We have a few rules in regards to The Green Store product line up: does it function well and serve a purpose? Is it beautiful? Is it sustainable or beneficial to the environment? If it doesn’t satisfy those requirements you won’t find it here. There are enough shops selling unethical future landfill. We will continue to minimise our environmental impact. The business is hard work but it has its rewards. My parents were self-employed, both maternal and paternal grandparents were self-employed and my brother Tim runs his own business in Queensland; I just don’t think we are cut out to work for corporations or anyone else. We are all too opinionated and pedantic!

brushes scarf

What milestones are you particularly proud of for the business?

Rhonda: That we are still here after four years! We have managed to trade seven days a week since we opened in April 2015. We have continually expanded and have offered myotherapy and massage therapy since February 2017 with beauty therapy one day a week with Nadene Dietz of Adorn Face & Beauty.

Kasie has overseen the running annually of the Trentham Twilight Night in November, which has been a fun night for visitors and locals and a successful evening for local businesses. I am proud that we have established ourselves here in Trentham, and we have expanded our offering online. Many friendships have been made from local and regional clients and I am proud to say that we have visitors returning from our Fairfield days too! We are constantly growing and learning and have many things planned for the future.

Steph: As Rhonda said, we are still here in a small country town trying to spread the word on sustainability and providing long-lasting quality products that won’t end up as landfill.

What do you love about running your own store?

Rhonda: The very pleasant atmosphere, and of course, the locals and tourists make for interesting chats every day.

Kasie: Meeting new people every day, exchanging stories and having a laugh. It has been satisfying to establish some lovely networks and friendships through my myotherapy practice and be able to assist in improving people’s lives through the store and massage therapy.

Steph: The customers are really lovely. My two kids are running around the shop, causing chaos as we speak, so my work here is flexible around the family. Creatively, I have designed and manufactured many of the textile products and it’s affirming to see customers enjoying them.

The store is run as a family business. How has this enhanced the business?

Kasie: [laughs] The Green Store wouldn’t be here were it not a family business. I don’t think it’s legal for employees to work the hours that we do! When Rhonda suggested she open in Trentham, I honestly thought I would help her set up and assist for six months while the store found its feet. Fast forward to four years later, I now live here in Trentham and we - Rhonda, Steph and I - all work here. We all bring different talents to the business and I continually remind myself how fortunate we are that the local and regional community have embraced our offering here. We don’t operate like a regular business: staff meetings are sporadic and normally squeezed into loud family dinners. The beauty of operating a wonderful store with your family is that we all have a common goal of wanting the business to succeed and we all work extraordinarily hard to achieve that.

In hindsight, is there anything about the evolution of The Green Store that you would have done differently?

Rhonda: The Green Store has evolved beautifully, naturally, which aligns with our ethos.

Steph: I would have quit my old job sooner.

Kasie: We are growing slowly. Not having huge buckets of money has made us carefully consider each change and improvement to the business. It’s a journey.

You offer myotherapy session. Can you explain a little about what myotherapy is?

Kasie: Myotherapy is the evidence-based assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal pain and associated conditions. In common with other allied health practices, myotherapists utilise a wide range of evidence-based treatment approaches and skills, which in addition to manual therapy, assists with muscular pain and dysfunction. Myotherapy treatments can assist and aid in prevention, assessment, early intervention, treatment of injuries, pain and the ongoing management of chronic musculoskeletal conditions. A myotherapist may include treatment options such as trigger point therapy, joint mobilisation, dry needling, cupping, stretching, exercise, rehabilitation programs and pain management.

That’s the clinical definition of myotherapy - I like to think that I treat wholistically: when I meet a new client we have a good chat about what their lifestyle entails, past and present, and what the client wants to get out of a treatment. It might be to treat an acute trauma or condition, or sometimes it begins with experiencing a tension headache, or mysterious muscular pain. I endeavour to improve wellbeing, decrease pain and offer exercises and stretches that will rest and lengthen overworked muscles. I also offer therapeutic and remedial massage therapy because sometimes our bodies and minds just need time out.

interior dress dress

Some of the products are designed by The Green Store. Can you talk about these products and how they originated?

Kasie: We have a few great things that we produce. Steph is a talented fashion designer and, prior to the tree change and super-mothering, she was in charge of production for an Australian fashion label in Melbourne. Steph designs and creates textiles, fashion accessories, soft furnishings and bags for The Green Store. Follow her journey up-cycling and salvaging fabrics for great gear on Instagram.

We are passionate about making functional products that serve a purpose, look great and are mindful of their environmental impact. Steph sources beautiful vintage fabrics and breathes new life into items that otherwise might become landfill. Our Jerome bags are a wonderful example: I was hoarding vintage kitsch linen souvenir tea-towels because you just never know what project you can use those for! Steph bravely said: “Let me cut them up and use them for something!” And so our Jeromes were born. They are a multi-purpose bag modeled on the old Dopp kit bag perfect for cosmetics and toiletries, man products, bits and pieces or a gift or souvenir from Australia. Steph is continually coming up with wonderful new products and our reusable bread bags, perfect for Redbeard Bakery sourdough, are probably our newest and very popular product!

We have also commissioned two limited edition tea towels by talented artists Seth Searle and Renee Treml and these beautiful souvenirs have been sent all over the world.

Finally, The Green Store has a small range of natural skincare products, including face moisturiser, cleanser and hand and body creams that only contain pure ingredients that we have produced for the store; perfect for sensitive skin and those with compromised immunity.

What are some of your favourite and “must have” products?

Kasie: I love everything. I use everything we sell from the natural laundry liquid to our pure skincare. My current must-haves would be Australian made Rare Earth Oils Cleanser and Moisturiser, Dindi Naturals Toning Mist with Rose Water and Motobean Coffee.

Rhonda: Honeybee wraps, the Jerome bag, and Otto & Spike scarves. Oh yes, and Mongrel Socks! Mongrel socks are slippers, yoga or bed socks. They are so cosy and warm in the cool country weather.

Steph: Smudge Budge Cleanser, Est Olive Oil Soaps and where would I be without all the household essentials that I refill at The Green Store. I don’t have to go to the supermarket!

What should every home have?

Rhonda: A fire!

Kasie: Friends, family, pets, food, laughter, a garden and natural cleaning products of course!

Steph: At this time of year, a cosy couch and a crackling fire.

What is your greatest luxury and your most guilty indulgence?

Rhonda: My camper van?!

Kasie: Rhonda bought a camper van but she doesn’t get to use it much yet, she is always working! I think we need to plan more trips for her and get more balance. I have been fortunate this year and taken some great breaks away in Japan and Central Australia. I am hoping to get to Lord Howe Island for some hiking in the next twelve months, so travel is my luxury and indulgence for sure.

What are your creature comforts?

Steph: Warm woolly socks!

Kasie: Mum is on about socks again! She must be cold today. [Laughs] I do love to slow cook food during winter. I listen to podcasts and potter around the kitchen. I am attempting to grow a few veggies and the possums have made off with my broccoli this week! Creature comforts: I don’t get far without coffee and good food.

Steph: Chocolate and beer! [Laughs]

dog bag

Do you like to read and if so, what are your favourite books? Which literary characters do you identify with the most?

Rhonda: Many and varied. No favourites. We are right next door to the Trentham library so I pick up something different every week.

Kasie: I think Rhonda reads more than I do at the moment. I think I have finished about three novels since we opened the shop and the stack by my bed is growing. Cried buckets reading The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan. It was so savage and poetic. In contrast, I am currently reading a nonfiction book on how the vagus nerve affects the central nervous system with massage and breathing techniques to cope with anxiety, PTSD and depression. The next book on the reading list is one about the traditional healers of Central Australia.

Steph: I love the classics. I like to wander around Trentham on a misty day and pretend I am on the moors and have to run away from my family like Jane Eyre or Tess of the D’urbervilles! [Laughs]

What should visitors see and do whilst in Trentham?

Rhonda: The Wombat Trail Walk around the old racecourse; definitely a visit to the Trentham Falls; a local wine in the Cosmopolitan Hotel wine bar or sitting under the magnificent trees in the beer garden during summer; a meal at Du Fermier; a visit to us certainly; and a massage with Kasie at The Green Store.

Kasie: We are spoilt for choice with great food in Trentham, you can just waddle around trying all the wonderful places to eat. Wander up The Domino Trail from Trentham Historic Railway Station, which is beautiful at any time of day. If you time it right you can watch a classic movie at Radio Springs Hotel in Lyonville, which lives at the end of the track.

Support our local stores, artists, makers, and producers, and pick up a bag of Trentham spuds on your way home.

Steph: Elsie, my daughter, says definitely visit the new chocolate shop Atelier Chocolat run by Laetitia, who is our fab new neighbour on Market Street.

If you could have three people over for dinner, who would they be and why, and what food would you serve?

Steph: David Attenborough, Michael Schur, and my daughter requests Judy Garland. It should be pretty interesting so I won’t have time to cook. I’ll get a fantastic local chef that caters at home like The Heartier, Emma James Catering or Dele

Kasie: I think I would get one of the talented chef’s Emma James Catering, Dele or The Heartier from our region to cook so I can relax and talk to my guests! For sure we need local food from our wonderful regional producers Brooklands Free Range Farms, Trentham Potato Co., Angelica Organic Farm, Adsum Farmhouse, The Fermentary, Holy Goat Cheese, Belle Patisserie Cakes, Herbal Lore Gin, Musk Lane, and Passing Clouds wine.

So with all that amazing food, I will need more than three people! Like Steph, I love the idea of chatting with David Attenborough: he’s a treasure and how do we preserve him forever? I would love to invite a lot of comedians: Tig Notaro, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Steve Martin are a few faves. My entire family, friends, and shop-dog of course.

Rhonda: Kevin Costner will do! [Laughs]

The Green Store

12 Market St,
Victoria Australia
Opening Hours:
Monday-Sunday: 10.00 - 5.00