Nicholas St Newsagents owner Pauline Williamson has had a rough few years.
Four years ago, and only days after buying into the news agency which was then a popular stop-off point in the Ipswich Mall, her husband Roger was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
Roger passed away two years on, just seven months after her son Matthew died suddenly of a heart attack.
Now, Mrs Williamson is determined to be part of two very important success stories in her life.
The first surpasses everything, to raise her grandson Joshua who is now aged 10, into a healthy young man.
The second is to see out the struggles she’s facing with her business.
Outside, front end loaders are digging up the centre of Nicholas St. There are fences and detours, and despite a flow of state government and council workers to her agency, she knows the next 12 months will be challenging.
“The mall has been tired for a long time now,” she says, 5-cent piece at the ready for a steady stream of customers looking to cash Scratchie winnings.
“But I’ve seen the plans, and it’s going to look amazing. It will be beautiful.”
Mrs Williamson says she can’t afford to lose her business. It’s her first venture into the small business world, and the income it generates is critical.
“I have a beautiful boy now and I just have to make this work,” she says.
In coming weeks, she’ll be looking to reduce the number of greeting cards sitting along the walls of the shop. Customers can expect to see some of the fibro sheeting removed, exposing painted murals which potentially date back to the 1930s and ‘40s if the era of fashion is any indication.
At first, it was thought the murals may have been created by d’Arcy Doyle. Although that’s not the case, there are some spectacular paintings of cartoon characters from an era gone by.
In terms of stock, the greetings cards will be replaced with a broader range of gifts.
“People tend to text each other these days, so cards are a dying art I’m afraid.”
But they’re still buying small gifts for each other – for birthdays, retirements and other occasions, which is why Mrs Williamson will be expanding the gift display in the heart of the store.
The internet is the store’s enemy. Newspaper and magazine sales are declining. But it hasn’t stopped the sale of lottery tickets, which Mrs Williamson says are driving the bulk of current sales, especially those with the multi-million draws.
“I’ve wanted to walk away from the business so many times,” she says, pausing to serve customers who mostly address her by name.
“I have great customers. Some of them have been coming here for 30 years, and I’ve been in Ipswich 20 years. So as long as we can still get an eclectic mix of new shops around us, I should be okay.
“When I took this place over, the people before me had been here 34 years. At that time, it survived as a basic newsagent. We’ve got a paper run which helps, but I’m now looking at how I can diversify the business.”