As one of Richmond’s longest running businesses Rowena Corner Store stands proudly as a story of survival, reinvention and reinvigoration. In 1956, whilst Melbourne geared up as the home of the Olympics, Rowena opened her doors to a bustling suburb of industry and immigrants. Joining a local strip of two milk bars, a green grocer, a butcher, a dry cleaner and various other stores, the Rowena Corner Store became the central hub of a village square, servicing the local community with everyday items such as food, lollies & milkshakes. She welcomed kids on their way to school, parents seeking lunch for work, and footy crowds looking for half-time snacks and drinks.
With surrounding shops disappearing under the retail monoculture of the 80’s & 90’s, Rowena stayed firm – but a little worse for wear. By 2000, after almost half a century of service the old girl was in need of some serious TLC. A ground-up renovation and the modern era of the store began. Whilst holding true to its milkbar roots the new Rowena – under the guidance of current owner Con Coustas – focused on wholesome fare, quickly becoming a favourite food destination amongst locals and visitors alike.
“Whilst the whole world seemed to be speeding up around us, we realised the point was to slow down,” says Coustas. “Remaking Rowena was about going back to what people really value. And we’ve seen that in our community more generally – people returning to slow food, fresh produce and places where they can connect with their community and each other. That’s what people value, and that’s the role Rowena serves.”
Rowena celebrated her 60th in style kicking off with a ‘footpath fiesta’ – in Coustas’ words, “We’re spilling Rowena onto the street to say thanks to a special community in true Greek style”