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Warwick's city heart: Passion, innovation and a real buzz

IN PART 6 of our special online series Warwick's City Heart, we visit the modern CBD and learn why it remains the vibrant heart of Warwick.

WITH its laidback country feel the town of Warwick may seem like it's settling in to while away the time as the sun sets over the beautiful Southern Downs, but the truth is that under its serene exterior is a bustling centre of financial and social activity.

The excellent facilities, good schools, wide open spaces and its proximity to the Cunningham and New England highways adds to the town's appeal for people of all ages. The almost 16,000 residents are a mix of couples, teenagers, families with small children and retirees with many successful professionals and business people too.

"The thing about Warwick is that unlike some other country towns the Central Business District is still the vibrant heart of the place," said Chamber of Commerce President Lewis von Stieglitz.

"The shopping centre is well placed and opens straight onto the main shopping streets which of course also house businesses that offer services such as banks, doctors and dentists. It gives the town a real buzz."

Despite a cautious spending mood being seen across the country, Mr von Stieglitz said the feeling amongst retailers and shoppers in Warwick was a rather positive one with work also starting on the revitalisation and expansion of Rose City Shoppingworld.

It is also here that the advantages of being a close-knit community come to the fore.

"What we see in Warwick is people who are excited and passionate about buying local so the money is recycled in the community," said Mr von Stieglitz.

"You can get just about anything in the CBD with a great range of clothing, shoes and essentials. We have small boutique stores and the big chains and very good quality options for dining out too."

The town is staying in step with the times offering free wiFi in many parts of the CBD and excellent internet coverage across much of the area.

"I have much better mobile coverage than I do in the middle of Sydney," said Mr von Stieglitz.

"I can easily conduct business wherever I am in the Warwick CBD with its open spaces instead of trying to contort my body into impossible positions when I am in Sydney trying to get a good signal."

Mr von Stieglitz, who incidentally, is also the chief executive officer at Warwick Credit Union, added that while locals seemed happy with the retailers and their wares, there was still room for people with good business plans and ideas to try and seek their fortunes.

"This is a growing region and with that comes opportunity," he said.

"This is a town that rewards innovation and hard work. It is refreshing to live and work in a place where loyalty matters and neighbours want to do the right thing by each other.

"Of course there is always room for improvement and as a chamber we like to encourage businesses to ensure they are always looking for ways to deliver better service, to train and re-train so they are offering the customer the best experience possible.

Childhood dream open for business

HIGH END: Andrew Cooper is excited to reopen Skehan's Menswear.
HIGH END: Andrew Cooper is excited to reopen Skehan's Menswear. Molly Glassey

Andrew Cooper is just one example of a Warwick local who is reaping the rewards of hard work and innovation. 

In September the young entrepreneur realised a childhood dream when he opened the doors to his new business, Cooper's Menswear, on Palmerin Street.

Well, to be honest, it was more a case of keeping a main street tradition alive than starting a completely new store as Mr Cooper's passion for fashion resulted in a rescue mission of sorts.

His new store, with its chic new lines and trendy statements, is on the premises of the former Skehan's Mensland which faced closure when owner Susanne Wade decided to retire.

Mr Cooper, while staying sympathetic to the old shop's 80-year history, has wasted little time in stamping his personality on proceedings offering up more choice and products.

"It is still difficult to believe at times," Mr Cooper said. "We only started talking about it in May and now here we are all open for business with a new style and an exciting range of new brands.

"We have quality brands like Thomas Cook, Nautica, Lacrosse, Gazman and loads more to satisfy a range of ages and needs. It is nice to offer those men who are chasing high-quality clothing for business or pleasure the ability to acquire it. Just because Warwick is a country town doesn't mean we have to skimp on style."