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The Rural Trader: What it Means to be a True Heart of the Community

The Rural Trader: What it Means to be a True Heart of the Community

The Rural Trader is a breath of fresh air, bringing new life into a restored 1930s general store in Nevertire, rural New South Wales. If you’ve never heard of Nevertire, you’ll be forgiven. The tiny country town has a population of roughly 200 people, and The Rural Trader is the only place serving barista coffee for miles around.

The store itself is carefully curated and has an on-site cafe. It sells a selection of homewares, gifts, apparel, and pantry items sourced from independent suppliers in rural areas throughout the state. 

We sat down with Kat Montgomery, Founder and Owner of The Rural Trader, to talk about what inspired her to start a business in remote New South Wales and how it’s grown to become the heart of a rural community. 

Life before The Rural Trader

Before embarking on her journey as a rural business owner, Kat was following a very different career path.

“I went and lived overseas, lived in Sydney and Melbourne, went to university in Melbourne and studied at RMIT,” explains Kat.

After graduating, Kat took a position at the Commonwealth Bank in commercial and agribusiness banking, beginning her 8+ year career in finance. 

“I met my husband in Dubbo, and he told me that he was from a very small town about an hour and a half from Dubbo called Nevertire. I’d heard of Nevertire, I’d heard of the famous Nevertire Hotel. And yeah, basically, I went on a date with him at the Nevertire Hotel.”

Kat’s first date with her now-husband was her first introduction to the small community of Nevertire. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she would launch her own business out of the town’s old general store just a few years later. 

Getting started and growing ambitions

Kat admits that she’s always been very creative and craved an outlet for this creativity while working in accounting and finance. 

“I always had this desire for some kind of creative outlet that was outside of what I was doing. So, I decided that I would start making candles from home. And that’s actually how The Rural Trader began.” 

Initially, Kat ran her candle business out of the family home.

“I basically took over the whole house as a candle factory. My husband loved the smell of it. He didn’t quite love the mess, but we made it work.”

However, her business and ambitions soon outgrew her house, so Kat embarked on a mission to find a permanent home for The Rural Trader. 

“There was this old 1930s abandoned general store that had been vacant for about 70 years,” explains Kat. “It had been bought by different owners, but no one really had the steam or the puff to get into it.” 

“I saw that the shop and the house next door had come onto the market, and I used my financial negotiation skills that I’d learned whilst working in the finance industry, and bartered and backwards and forwards and negotiated with them on price and I secured, what is now The Rural Trader [store].” 

Passion for rural communities

Only a few months after opening its doors, The Rural Trader was hit with disaster.

“It’s been a real journey. Less than six months into buying the property, we had a once-in-100-year cyclonic event that went through our town,” explains Kat. “We are obviously very inland. We live nowhere near the coast.” 

“I had multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damages across both properties. So that really set me back.” 

However, for Kat, the setback wasn’t so much financial; it was more of a mental challenge. 

“It didn’t set me back so much financially because I was really well insured, and that was really helpful,” comments Kat. 

“Mentally, it was that whole, should I take the cash and run? Or am I going to find something inside of me to say, no, this is what I’m passionate about.” 

In the end, the disaster solidified Kat’s determination to follow her passion.

“I’m passionate about regional communities, and I’m passionate about what regional and rural Australia has to offer,” says Kat.

A slice of city creativity in the country

Having lived in Melbourne and Sydney, Kat loves the diversity and creativity that naturally comes with living in a big city.

“My biggest reason for opening The Rural Trader was that I’d lived in Melbourne, Sydney, and overseas, and I had always loved food. I love coffee. I love homeware. I love interior design,” explains Kat.

This diversity drove Kat to offer a similar experience in rural New South Wales–becoming a hub for regional creatives to sell their products. 

“When I’d go to the city, I would always just feel so immersed and so great in these spaces and what these creative people had to offer. And I thought, why can’t we have that? So I just decided, you know what, I’m going to give it a go.” 

Heart of the community

While The Rural Trader sources its coffee from ST ALi in Melbourne, the rest of the store’s products and cafe’s produce are all sourced from regional small businesses across New South Wales.  

“We have beautiful sourdough bread from Racine’s bakery in Orange. And also all their cookies. All of our cakes and everything in the cafe are all locally baked by women in the area,” comments Kat. 

“We are sourcing produce from other small businesses so that we can showcase their products. Essentially, Nevertire is in the centre of New South Wales. So it’s like we’re the central hub where we can bring all these people and their produce together.” 

Going above and beyond

It’s not just regional suppliers and small businesses that Kat supports through The Rural Trader. She also goes above and beyond for her customers and staff, cementing her business’s position as an integral cog in the local community.   

“It’s harvest time here at the moment,” comments Kat. “So everyone’s stripping their grain, and there were some girls over at the grain retrieval site. They were really busy, and they needed some lunch.” 

“I just got in my car, and I took [Lightspeed Payments] with me,” says Kat. “I took it over and literally bing bing bing, here’s the thing tap.” 

“They’re a few kilometres away, and I’ve taken [Lightspeed Payments] down there, and I’ve just fed them their lunch.”

Kat also provides accommodation for her staff to live next door to the store. 

“I own the beautiful heritage house next door [to the store] as well, which my staff actually live in,” explains Kat. “We hire backpackers to sign off on their 88-day visa. We also have another local girl who works full-time for me. She became a permanent employee in the middle of this year, which was really exciting.” 

It’s clear that Kat’s hard work has driven The Rural Trader into the heart of the local community, but for her, the secret to success is simple: kindness and humility. 

“I think that just being really humble and really kind to everyone that comes into the store, every conversation, every customer interaction, every supplier agreement, whatever it is, just be kind, be humble.”

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