John Snape in his Maclean business John Snape motors - has been running in town for more than 40 years.
John Snape in his Maclean business John Snape motors - has been running in town for more than 40 years. Adam Hourigan

Maclean businesses in for the long haul

John Snape Motors - Keeping a town ticking over for more than 40 years

JOHN Snape opened his motor shop in the main street of Maclean in 1977, moving to his current bigger location in 1985.

"It's been a long time I guess,” he said looking over his shop.

And with car technology, Mr Snape he said he still enjoyed the challenge and the work, and where he got to ply his trade.

"I enjoy it, it's a lovely place, lovely people with a small town atmosphere,” he said.

Mr Snape said he believed there was a simple reason why people still supported his Maclean business in the face of larger competition.

"I just think we do the right thing,” he said. "They come to me because if you say you can fix something you do it, if you can't do it you say so, and if you make a mistake you say so.

"You just be honest with people, and I think it's as simple as that.”

With the technological change over the years, he said he and his staff had to constantly keep ahead of the game when it came to newer cars.

"It's a challenge, but it's interesting at the same time. There's a lot more technical stuff, a lot more electronics, but if there weren't challenges we wouldn't be doing it,” he said.

"That said, it's rather pleasant when you get an old car and you can fix it in 15 minutes and you think 'gee that was easy' and you didn't have to pull half the car apart to get at it.”

Mr Snape said he believed small towns relied on small business, and it was important for them to support each other..

"They used to say that every dollar spent in Maclean goes round six times before it leaves town,” he said. "So if you're not spending money in the town, you're not going to have the growth, you're not going to have the development.

"Transport has improved, and it's a lot easier to go to Grafton, Lismore, but if you want your town to grow, if you want employment for your young people and want the services you've got to look after local industry.

"I get parts from away, but all my living expenses is money spent in town. I expect them to support me, so I support them.

And after more than 40 years supporting his town, Mr Snape said he wasn't planning on hanging up the tools any time soon.

"I've got a son who will take over from me eventually, but I don't think I'll ever just retire and walk away because I still enjoy it. I still enjoy talking to the people,' he said.

"I think I'll eventually fade into the background, come in a couple of days a week and end up being a bloody nuisance.”

Bev Anderson of Clovelly's Fashion in Maclean.
Bev Anderson of Clovelly's Fashion in Maclean. Adam Hourigan

Clovelly's Fashion - An eye for fashion over 40 years

BEV Anderson holds the unofficial record of longest-running business owner in the Maclean CBD, and if her enthusiasm for her customers is any indication, she's not going anywhere soon.

Ms Anderson bought Clovelly's in 1975, and she said a lot of things had come and gone through the years.

"We've had a load of competition too, from chains and online,” she said.

"But over 40-odd years we've built up a wonderful clientele that come from Grafton, Lismore, Ballina and all over the Clarence, and they come for something that's different and unique.”

Ms Anderson said they had always catered for an elderly crowd as well as modern fashion, saying those customers were often a bit forgotten and were very loyal.

"It's important to keep up with fashion, and people trust the staff to get something that suits them,” she said.

"What looks good on a model might not suit you and over the years we've been trained to work out what suits the lady.

"And they appreciate that, especially if it's a special occasion or a wedding.”

They're not starved for choice, with clothes packing every rack in a shop stretching out of eyesight, but Ms Anderson said it wasn't the most important part of their longevity.

"We always get thank yous for that personal service and being unique. You have to give service, and people will keep coming back,” she said.

After 40 years of keeping her finger on the pulse of fashion for her local community, MsAnderson said she still enjoyed buying for her customers.

"Oftentimes when I'm buying I'll buy stock because I can see individual customers and buy for them. I know they'd love it when they walk in,” she said.

"That's what we consider, not exactly what you want but what you're going to sell.”

But her biggest secret to staying in business, Ms Anderson said, were her staff, who she said were loyal and treated the business as their own.

And never one to miss an opportunity, she said they had expanded across the road into a pop-up shop next to BCU to sell old-season stock.

"There's nothing over $50 there,” she smiled.

Laurie and Margaret Fitzpatrick of Skyes Coffee Lounge in Maclean.
Laurie and Margaret Fitzpatrick of Skyes Coffee Lounge in Maclean. Adam Hourigan

Skye's Coffee Lounge - Coffee shop helps town help itself

LAURIE Fitzpatrick always joked that he'd leave his job as a bank manager and open up a coffee shop

And when he took a redundancy at his long-time job, that's exactly what he did, buying Skye's Coffee Lounge in Maclean more than 20 years ago.

"I bought myself a job,” he laughed. "We still work six days a week, and we're probably the longest running cafe in town now,” he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick said it was important for small businesses to keep a town alive, pointing to how many places helped each other.

"If someone had've said when I bought the place that I'd spend nearly $3million in town I would've laughed at them,” he said

"But that's what we do, it's all those things people don't register... between what we spend on wages, the amount we use at Spar and all the other things, it adds up.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said they were happy to offer an old-fashioned coffee shop experience, with good wholesome food, made on the spot for people and quick service.

"I get worried if someone has to wait more than two minutes for a coffee, it's too long,” he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick said he was proud of the many staff who had started off as young customers, start work and then go on to bigger professional work.

"I've had ones who used to come into the shop as tiny kids... and I think the job of talking to people builds their confidence,” he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick said he believed Maclean had a thriving future, with people already curious at the roadworks surrounding the town stopping in.

"We'll be in a spot where people will leave Coffs Harbour, or from the Gold Coast, the next place they'll see is Maclean, and we'll be closer to the highway. I think Maclean has a lot of prospects from that.”

As for Mr Fitzpatrick, he said he's happy with his lifestyle away from the number crunching of his earlier bank life.

"It's a great environment to work in, my idea of the lifestyle is quite good and I live on the Northern Rivers - where else would you want to be?”