By Jack Hayes
Since speaking with CBD News in 2017, a lot has changed for CBD resident and small business owner, Melanie Ashe.
Her store – Clementine’s Fine Food and Gifts on Degraves St, which specialises in bringing fine food and gifts from throughout Victoria to the CBD – has had its doors closed to the public for the best part of six months.
Like many small business owners in the CBD, some of whom have been the hardest hit in the country, Ms Ashe would be excused for wallowing for just a moment.
However, true to her nature, Ms Ashe exudes nothing but positivity in her local community and hope for the future.
“There has been a real venture back to basics through this whole pandemic. A renewed appreciation for your community, which I feel leads to quality, simplicity and reconnection to the people and small businesses who are the most important fabrics of Melbourne,” Ms Ashe said.
“It has been hard, but that is no different from anyone else in the city.”
Following successive lockdowns, Ms Ashe banded together with fellow CBD small businesses in making the best of a bad situation, and a sewing machine.
Along with tailors Carl Navè, V and J Menswear and milliner, Marea Bright, Ms Ashe took to covering up the faces of locals in the name of public health with beautiful hand sewed facemasks.
Nearing its ninth birthday, Clementine’s has long been the CBD’s champion for locally produced and sourced goods from every corner of the state.
“When we did open between the two lockdowns, some of my regulars came in and simply stocked up. Not just because they wanted to support Clementine’s, but also because they knew I support roughly 80 other small businesses,” Ms Ashe said.
“One woman came in and stocked up with birthday presents because she knew that we would be locked down for another few months and wanted to support in the best way she could.”
“We’ve relearnt community again. Among businesses and locals in the CBD, there has been a real strength in the local community.”
Ms Ashe has been an active member of the local business and resident community throughout her time living in the CBD.
She is a former president of City Precinct, an organisation that aims to support small businesses and foster community within the CBD and is a member of local community group Residents 3000.
Living just a minute’s walk from Clementine’s, Ms Ashe was always drawn to Melbourne’s most iconic food and retail laneway because of the mixing pot of different people.
“I wanted a space that had every type of person in it; the city workers, the interstate or overseas tourists, regional travellers and local visitors. It is the gateway to Melbourne’s laneways,” she said.
“The concept of Clementine’s has always been to find products that are locally made. No matter where you come from, whether it be from overseas or down the street, people always appreciate quality, locally made and produced products.”
Spirited with optimism for the future and geared towards her reopening, supporting locals of any kind is never far from her mind.
“It has been magical to see this strengthening of community that has occurred, and I hope we grow it,” she said.
For more information visit: clementines.com.au