November 2, 2013
ANY fool could tell a weekly retro and vintage market at Kongwak was never going to work. I was one of them. Locals sometimes forget how to get to Kongwak so how would the city hipsters ever find it, and why? It’s not as if it was on the way to anywhere.
Market manager Jane Seaholme ignored the voices of reason and ploughed on. And tomorrow marks the market’s first 10 years.
Was Jane ever assailed by doubts herself?
“I always thought it would work because there was nothing around,” she says. “It was on every week so people didn’t have to remember whether it was the second or fourth Sunday. And I needed a job so it had to work.”
When the Bass Coast Post visited last Sunday, the market was crowded with local families for whom this is a regular Sunday outing, and visitors from the city who had heard their friends rave about it and come to see for themselves.
Under questioning, Jane looks around reflectively at the old Murray Goulburn store room that houses the market. “It’s not very smart, is it? If you liked tidy, you wouldn’t come here.”
She thinks the market’s shambolic, slightly daggy nature, with old furniture in corners, is part of its charm. It’s half hipster, half hippie, with stalls selling everything from kaftans to vintage kimonos, hand-made jewellery to retro sunglasses, lava lamps to psychedelic trousers.
There’s the Malaysian kitchen, presided over by the legendary Aton, which sells curries and curry puffs and is a huge factor in the market’s success, Jane says. “She’s been on holiday for two months and people would come up: ‘Oh my god, is she ever coming back?’ They were inconsolable. She’d better not ever give it up.”
In the forecourt of the market, local growers and producers sell vegetables, preserves, cakes and plants. Inside there is always a local folk singer or two, and chairs and tables so people can sit, listen to the music and converse while they drink their coffee or eat their curries.
The market operates under what Jane describes as a “benevolent dictatorship”.
“There’s no committee. I hate to say it but I think that’s why it works. I’ve been on committees and this is much easier on everyone. People come and set up their stalls and then they go home. It simplifies everything. I’m open to ideas, as long as they’re good ones. I say, ‘Great, can you work out how to do it?’”
She also acknowledges the support of the site’s owner, David Ehrlich. “It’s no huge money-maker for him. He was very open to ideas. When we started, he used to ring me every Monday morning to ask how it had gone. Now it might be every six months.”
David Ehrlich says making money was never his object. “When I looked at the property 10 years ago I thought it would be a nice thing to try. I’m delighted it’s become such a feature for the local community.
“It’s just got the right spirit for people to come and meet up with their friends on a Sunday morning.” He’s also pleased that it gives creative locals, particularly young people, somewhere to sell their goods.
“It’s worked out very well and a lot of that is due to Jane. She seems to know what people like before they know it themselves.”
As well as running the market, Jane operates her own stall selling vintage and collectible clothing. She also runs the very busy coffee stall because she couldn’t find anyone else to do it. “I can’t even do a pattern on top. I employ people who are better at making coffee than I am.”
Originally she only planned to do this for eight years until the kids grew up. “But I have so much fun. These people are like family to me. They’re nicer than family.”
Kongwak market stallholders and supporters will celebrate the market’s first 10 years with a party in the Kongwak hall on Saturday night. Everyone is welcome. Admission is by donation to the Kongwak CFA and the Kongwak hall. There’ll be an open mic for people to play dance music. BYO booze and snacks or you can buy curry puffs and curries from Aton’s kitchen.