Kate McDonald - CO-OWNER OF RECORD LOW
I grew up in Mooroopna, a small town right by Shepparton in northern Victoria. Growing up, all I wanted to do was move away. I never imagined that I’d end up married with child, living in a small Victorian town!
When I finished high school, I was not ready for Uni. I started moving around a lot, having the time of my life. For the next ten years I lived in Melbourne, New Zealand and the UK, where I started working towards a career in the not-for-profit sector, building and developing social enterprises that focused on employment outcomes for disadvantaged people.
My husband Sach, daughter Suzie and I moved to Castlemaine in 2014. With family in Harcourt and Bendigo (and my English husband’s family being half a world away), moving closer to support networks made sense. We had spent two years on child care waiting lists in Melbourne and every week was becoming a financial grind. Moving here, we could combine day care and family support to enable both of us to work full time. Suzie is now 4 years old and heading to Winters Flat Primary School in the new year, an amazing school with a Stephanie Alexander cooking program, horses in the neighbouring field and vegie patches around every corner.
The readily available child care is only part of the story. We chose Castlemaine because of the town; its artistic sensibilities, the openness and welcoming attitude of the people. There are great gigs, exhibitions, markets, films, food, and more events than we could ever manage to get to! And it’s a beautiful part of the country.
It took us a while to adjust to living in a small town, after living in places like Manchester, London and Melbourne. I have always enjoyed the noise and speed of living in big cities and still miss it, but that life is harder to maintain and enjoy once you have a child. Moving to Castlemaine has partly been me embracing motherhood and realigning my values. In a town like Castlemaine, however, I feel like I can do this and still fulfil my own needs and interests.
Starting Record Low has been a dream come true. I met Sach whilst working together in a music shop in Manchester and had always talked about opening our own record shop. New and interesting shops were popping up in Castlemaine, and we felt like it was now or never. We sell new records and books, and other music and culture related gear. The community has really embraced the shop and us, and we’re wanting to add value to the lives of people living in Castlemaine. It’s a cliché, but music means so many different things to so many different people. For some it can be about supporting local artists and engaging with people around them, for others it can be a window into the wider world. We’re happy to order in anything people have been hunting for, and have regular customers with pretty niche tastes!
Retail is a risky business, especially when we’re competing against digital music platforms. Being such a new business, only time will tell how much that does impact on us. All being good, we have a 5 year plan that involves expansion and engaging with Castlemaine further by running or facilitating some community services. I am currently studying for my Bachelor of Business which I hope will help me achieve my goals for the shop!
The places I especially love in Castlemaine are Corner Store Merchants for amazing vintage clothes, fun and bright homewares and accessories and their gallery space. Stoneman’s Book Shop is an institution and it’s extremely difficult to run in and grab the newspapers without picking up a book. Saff’s and the Governor Café up at the gaol are family favourites in our house. The Railway with their amazing food and The Bridge with their ace gigs are so friendly and welcoming, real community watering holes! Diggers Store out at Campbell’s Creek is fantastic; pop -up café and shop, bed & breakfast, gallery space, function space, and Sound Recordings analogue music studio out the back. Pretty bloody cool! One of my all-time favourite things to do in Castlemaine is to hit up Wesley Hill Market on a Saturday morning. Grab a Rocket Roast coffee, stock up on amazing produce then have a flick through the second-hand records. Perfect. Out the back of Wesley Hill, the walk along Forest Creek can take you back into town, or head the other way and you can take a dip in the community-run Chewton Pool. Lastly, I’m really interested to see the direction the new owners of the Theatre Royal are going to take that venue in, exciting times for Castlemaine!
If I was to offer any advice to people relocating from the big smoke, it would be to find a place that fits you. I’ve spent too much time trying to make life work in places that haven’t clicked for me. Don’t just head to a town because you’ve heard good things, make sure the people, the places and the scenery inspires you and makes you happy.