THE END: Cheryl Kneller - closing down Big River Bait and Tackle in Maclean.
THE END: Cheryl Kneller - closing down Big River Bait and Tackle in Maclean. Adam Hourigan Photography

Maclean business to close its doors after 14 years

SINCE announcing they would close the doors to their business in Maclean, the one question people have asked Cheryl and Paul Kneller is "why?"

It's a question that doesn't have an easy answer for the owners of Big River Bait and Tackle. For the past 14 years, the couple have given advice and sold quality bait and tackle to keen fishers, not to mention hand-made guitars and amplifiers in the last few years, but the simple answer is that it's time for something new.

"You've got many layers of things that have changed in my industry, and it's a very changed industry from what it was when we first started," Mrs Kneller said.

"It's just time to move on. Modern day retail is very different and it's very direct marketed to the consumer. I think there's been a lot of people that have been in my industry for the same length of time as us leave in the last couple of years because we just don't feel we fit in modern day fishing tackle with the retail side of things."

Paul Kneller of Garage Music with one of his Hard Road handmade guitars. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Paul Kneller of Garage Music with one of his Hard Road handmade guitars. Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

Mrs Kneller said over the past decade consumer habits had changed and foot traffic into the store had declined, which put too much pressure on the store to survive.

"It's just a matter of being too hard for too long, and we're ready for something different," she said.

"We just don't fit. I could never stand behind a counter and sell something that doesn't work and if I could have charged for our information and service over the past half a dozen years we'd probably be better off. But we can't."

With the store to close their doors at the end of the month, Mrs Kneller said Maclean's retail sector faced significant challenges in the years to come to make the most of the opportunities from infrastructure works such as the Pacific Hwy upgrade and new Harwood Bridge.

"There's pockets of retail that does well from the road workers, but the leisure industry isn't one of them," he said.

"It seems to be a very much a two-speed economy and unfortunately the increase in local real estate rents has displaced people, they've moved to other areas or are looking at different options of where they can live, which seems to be common when you get a large infrastructure project in an area."

As for the future, Mrs Kneller said it's a case of back to the future for the couple, with Mr Kneller already hard at work on hand-made timber fishing lures, something that first started almost 30 years ago.

Mrs Kneller said the closing down sale on now at Big River Bait and Tackle will help fund their next business venture.

While Mrs Kneller said she was looking forward to their next challenge, she will miss being a part of the community as part of the store.

"The hardest thing for me, other than the financial side of things, is if you're a business in Maclean, you don't just sell things," she said.

"You're often the first port of call when someone is having a really bad day, and they need some emotional support or someone to say hi. We always joke that if you get out of Maclean without a chat it's not Maclean's fault.

"We've had so many great friendships and supported a lot of young ones and just encouraging people to get up and give it a go. It's going to be hard to let go of that side of things and being so hands on in the community, but we're up for a new adventure, it's a year of change and I'm hoping the public support our closing down sale so we can get off on the right foot for our next venture."

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