Lorraine Whan prepares to (not) celebrate a half-century in business

BIG BUSINESS: Lorraine Whan's dad bought the store for her in 1969. It cost a lot of lollies.
BIG BUSINESS: Lorraine Whan's dad bought the store for her in 1969. It cost a lot of lollies.

When Lorraine Whan started running the Corner Store, the top tune on the radio was Something/Come Together by the Beatles and the Premier was Robert Askin.

Lorraine is preparing for a massive milestone this Sunday: five decades in business at her traditional old store on the south side of Ferguson Street.

But she isn't planning a celebration.

Some of Lorraine Whan's original customers are still buying from her corner store fifty years on.

"A lot of them are still coming in; there's one family I've served five generations from," she laughs.

It's a sign that locals appreciate the old-fashioned service, she said.

The Whan Corner Store cost her dad $19,000 in 1969, in a deal that included a running business, the building and a house next door - and probably the customers too.

Paying back the loan meant she had to sell a lot of lollies, with a going rate of 4 for a penny. But in those days business was much easier.

In 1969, along with the Apollo program and Prime Minister Gorton there were about twelve or thirteen small grocers and corner stores in Glen Innes. Lorraine Whan is now one of the last two.

"It is so much quieter (because of) the big stores - Coles and Woolies," she said wistfully.

The Whan Corner Store has been a going business since the 1920s, but for the last fifty years it's been Lorraine's pride and joy. She hasn't overly changed the business aside from expanding the building in her time there, and still sells magazines and this newspaper, books and DVDs and groceries.

This Sunday is her golden jubilee, fifty years in business.

Lorraine isn't planning a celebration, aside from offering specials to kids for icy poles.

When asked if she'd like to have a party, or a visit by the mayor for her incredible achievement, all she does is laugh.

"I suppose it's a milestone isn't it," is all she will say, her modesty pretty obvious.

How did she even get into the business? It was essentially coincidence, she was in her twenties, it was just first business available in a job she enjoyed.

"My father asked me what I wanted to do and I was working at Mackenzie's, on the lolly counter.

"And I said I'd love to own a shop and this happened to come up."

The one tip she has for new business owners: "You've got to have a sense of humour."

Lorraine Whan says "you've got to have a sense of humour".

Lorraine Whan says "you've got to have a sense of humour".

Her fridge bears a litany of gags and off-colour jokes ("of course women don't work as hard as men" one sticker says "they get it right the first time" . "Tell me how lucky I am to work here, I keep forgetting" and "live long enough to be a problem to your kids" are just three).

But Lorraine has had enough time in business. She plans to soon retire and is looking for someone to take over the business. It's been for sale for several years, but with only one offer she's still working behind the counter to this day.

Leaving the shop she jokes she won't be working another fifty years.