Melanie Ashe said she was surprised by the rich sense of community when she moved to the CBD nine years ago.
After many years living in the suburbs, Ms Ashe was not expecting to make friends so quickly in the CBD.
“Everyone seems to know each other around here, and that was a huge surprise. I don’t know what it is. Maybe because people here walk to everywhere, they get to interact with each other more often,” she said.
An energetic woman with a bubbly personality, Ms Ashe said she quickly acquainted herself with new neighbours at the “vertical highways”, or lifts, inside her apartment building.
She soon became an active member of the building’s owners’ corporation and was also once the president of City Precinct, an organisation that aims to support small businesses and foster community within the CBD.
She is now City Precinct’s treasurer and part of local community group Residents 3000.
A bit over five years ago Ms Ashe made a life-changing decision to give up her corporate career and open up her own small business, which is now the Clementine’s food and gift shop in the highly sought-after Degraves St.
Being a long-term resident and local business owner, Ms Ashe said life and work in the CBD was both busy and simple.
As a sole trader, she often has to work six days a week, at the same time when many of the festivals are taking place.
But she said owning a shop meant she could enjoy the opportunity to meet interesting people and show visitors what Melbourne had to offer.
“I think small businesses become ambassadors of the city. They are what make up Melbourne,” she said.
Ms Ashe also said she felt lucky to be able to live in a central location and operate her business in a local and visitor hotspot.
“I think the atmosphere here is creative, eclectic and ever-changing. There’s always people around and so many different events happening.”
“The CBD is like a big town made up of small villages. Just like a small village, people from the same area know each other and shop locally,” she said.
Her shop exclusively features products from Victoria’s makers and farmers.
Ms Ashe said she was delighted to see local residents and visitors being supportive of her business concept.
“My customers understand the value of locally-made products. I get local regulars and overseas customers who would pop back in next time they are in Melbourne,” she said.
An advocate of the CBD resident and small business communities, Ms Ashe never misses a chance to engage positively with her customers and neighbours.
If a customer walks in and looks for something that is not available at Clementine’s, she would not hesitate to refer them to other local shops.
And being members of different community groups, she strives to make Melbourne a better place for both residents and business owners.
“People and small businesses are the most important fabrics of Melbourne,” she said.