Cranbrook will be left without a local grocery store when 124 Cranbrook Store closes its doors this month due to staff shortages.
The 124 Cranbrook Store has been operating from Gordon Street since April 2020, when Parminder Singh opened the business with financial assistance from local farmers while WA’s COVID restrictions were in full force.
Speaking to the Herald in April 2020, Mr Singh said the Cranbrook shop was originally built in 1908 by Sundar Singh — a man from his home state of Punjab in India — and he wanted to follow in his footsteps by running the store.
Now, he plans to close the shop on June 13 due to difficulties finding staff.
“From the very first day we have had a staffing issue. Those that want jobs here have fewer people (to compete against) and lots of options,” he said.
“Hospitality jobs are less attractive to Australians because they want a Monday to Friday job.
“Saturday, Sunday they want off, but they want someone to open the shop for them to eat.
“So who is going to do that? Immigrants, and for the last two years there has been no immigrants.”
Retaining staff had also proved challenging.
“I had a few people working for me through the Job Ready Program and here they learn cooking and stuff, so they get a (permanent) residency and move on from here,” he said.
Mr Singh said believed the staffing problems had been exacerbated by the lack of overseas workers coming into rural communities.
He blamed local parliamentarians for overlooking the issue.
“They don’t think about that … who is going to run these shops?” Mr Singh said.
“Send immigrants here. If they want to come here, they will stay here. If they don’t want to, they’ll go somewhere else.
“But I promise that people will come and stay here and these towns will develop.”
Mr Singh said he had held off on closing the Cranbrook store due to the impact it would have on the community’s elderly.
“They come here to buy their daily routine things and they have a reason to come out from the house,” he said.
“I have run this store because of those senior people.”
A Shire of Kojonup councillor, Mr Singh also owns 124 stores in Kojonup, Tambellup and Nyabing.
His other stores will not be impacted by the closure of the Cranbrook outlet.
He said he had spent less time with his children in the past two years trying keep the Cranbrook business open and expected to take a financial hit due to being unable to sell the $150,000 building.
Mr Singh was keen to hear from anyone interested in buying the property or business.
He feared the closure would have a big impact on the community.
“They will have to buy their bread and milk from 40km away in Mt Barker,” Mr Singh said .
“Those who have cars will drive, but those without licences, like a senior, how are they going to do that?”
Cranbrook Shire president Phil Horrocks said it was “very disappointing” to hear the store was closing.
“It is the older members of our community losing access to their local store who are going to suffer the most,” he said.
Mr Horrocks said most members of the Cranbrook community already relied on Mt Barker for their shopping needs due to the bigger store and wider variety of goods.
Contingency plans were being discussed for impacted local residents, he said.
“The Men’s Shed are talking about sending a bus down to Mt Barker once a week,” he said.
“With the bigger shops such as Coles and Woolworths, you can also do click and collect from Tenterden.”