Excellent vintage: the style capital on Sydney's doorstep
Bowral’s shopping strip, always a treasure, has one particularly amazing resident, writes Alexia Biggs
We should thank our lucky stars that The Acre didn’t become a big discount department store as slated, but instead morphed into the jewel in Bowral’s retail crown.
When Jane Crowley, owner of Mittagong institution The Shed, was forced to move from her old premises — which “leaked like a sieve in winter when it rained, and was so hot in summer no one wanted to step inside” — the search began for a new home. She came upon Integral Energy’s old electricity depot and could see that potential in the large main building and surrounding sheds for an antiques and old-wares market space. She, together with her father Athol Salter, leased the depot and began their indoor market business Dirty Janes.
The Crowleys were later able to outbid a huge commercial developer when the site came up for sale, then setting out with their business partner to bring their vision for the sprawling precinct to life.
Dirty Janes’ main showroom, housed in the front corner building, is known as The Acre. The sizeable warehouse space behind it is The Market. All in all, the site houses more than 75 individual stallholders, who sell an impressive collection of quirky collectables, vintage, retro, Art Deco, industrial and county. It’s one of the country’s best places to hunt for vintage. Crowley also engages an artist in residence, rotated every three months.
Squeezed within is the Tea Salon, which serves up tea blends on grandma’s old cups and saucers, delicious scones with jam and cream, and some of the tastiest toasties going around. Tradies line up for them at the street-side serving window in droves.
The whole place spills out onto an enormous courtyard encompassing more cafes, restaurants and shops and from there a strip of some of the best shops we’ve encountered in one place.
In the far corner, anyone with a love of French, Belgian and Hamptons style will be mesmerised by the finds at The Emporium by Suzie Anderson Home, an extension of Anderson’s enormous 10-room shop in nearby Moss Vale. Expect hardwood farmhouse tables, plump linen feather-filled cushions, rattan chairs, wicker trays, farmhouse pendant lights, candlesticks and serving ware.
Green thumb Maureen Gardner is also a resident, setting up three businesses within the precinct: The Potting Shed garden centre, which sells vintage wrought-iron furniture, cast-iron urns, hefty timber garden benches, zinc tubs and old shutters; an indoor plant emporium housed in a conservatory-like space named The Orangery with potted plants, woven market baskets and garden shed accessories; then a restaurant called Harry’s on Green Lane, filled with plant life, travel memorabilia, old books and wicker chairs. The busy café offers a smart bar menu in the evening featuring share plates and bar snacks until 5pm Sunday through to Thursday, and dinner Friday and Saturday. They also have a takeaway food bar called Green Lane Kitchen which is your go-to for takeaway coffees and meals seven days a week.
The Campbell & Spearman Interiors showroom is a haven of quintessential English country style, brimming with fabrics from Colefax and Fowler, Ralph Lauren, Filigree, Designers Guild, Sanderson and more. It’s tucked between The Orangery and Suzie Anderson Home, and is the place to head when you want to breathe new life into the pre-loved chair you just picked up at Dirty Janes.
Head up towards Bong Bong Street and you’ll find clothing boutique Sophie Tighe’s The South Store, who noticed a gap in the local market for niche Australian and international fashion labels. Racks are stocked with brands such as bassike, sir the label, PE Nation, Baum und Pferdgarten, Jérôme Dreyfuss, Anine Bing and IRO Paris. Pick up something pretty for the races or something smart for dinner.
Lastly, hugging the corner of Banyette and Bong Bong streets is the darling of The Acre — The Press Shop cafe and Bespoke Letterpress stationery store and print studio. Graphic designer Alischa Herrmann who uses original letterpress machines, some nearly 130 years old, to create gift tags and cards to sell alongside double-sided wrap, hand-dyed silk ribbons and linen-bound journals. Chef Nathan West offers a menu using local produce grown, reared or foraged in the area, makes all the pickles, aioli and chutneys himself, and offers a seasonal degustation dinner called Farm to Fork. Oh, and did we mention how good the coffee is?
The Acre is a spot that surprises and delights, with an old-fashioned shopkeeping sensibility, service that comes with a smile, and a place where dogs (on leads) are very welcome. And news just in: The Crowleys will open another location in Canberra early next year. Hooray to that.