Ten years ago, Lawrence Rose ran a 1000 hectare sheep and coarse grain property at Tawonga, near Williams.
His father developed the property shortly after the World War II.
But running the farm involved a great deal of lifting, and Lawrence had a bad back.
“My doctor told me I would end up in a wheelchair if I stayed on the farm,” he said.
So Lawrence and his wife, Heather, turned their focus to tourism.
“The idea stemmed from Heather,” Lawrence said.
“She and her sister, Sharon, bought Tambellup Wool Station in 1996. The business sold clothing in premises in the old Tambellup railway station.”
They moved the business to Williams and leased the former National Australia Bank building — but not for long.
“There was no parking and it was too small to run a business.
Sharon left and I leased out the farm.
Then Heather and I started running the shop on a full-time basis,” Lawrence said.
“We were only just making a living. We needed to get bigger or get out.”
A market research survey showed that there was potential to attract tourists passing through Williams on the Albany Highway.
“Tourists are looking for good food, clean toilets and space.
Shopping comes a distant fourth,” Lawrence said.
So the Roses took a punt and bought the old Mobil service station, located on the highway near the centre of town.
“It was Heather’s vision and drive. My role was to con the bank manager,” Lawrence said.
They erected a 1000sqm shed with plenty of parking and lawn space on the 5000sqm site.
The Woolshed incorporates a tourist information centre, open seven days a week, as well as a café, a variety of shops and a museum.
The main area of the Woolshed is taken up by a café.
“Our emphasis is on sourcing locally grown ingredients first, then regional, WA and, last, Australian,” Lawrence said.
“People can sit quietly here. There is fresh, home-made food and good service.”
The remaining space has been allocated to shops that stock clothing, art, lollies and souvenirs.
“We support local artists and craftspeople,” Lawrence said.
“It was slow progress developing the business.
We thought we would never fill the space, but now it is too small.
Heather runs the lolly shop. I did not think it would work, but now it is a business in its own right.”
The Woolshed has 25 local people on the payroll, many working part-time.
“We are the largest employer in town with 11 full-time equivalent positions. It has grown from five or six when we started.
We have brilliant staff, they take a pride in the place,” Lawrence said.
Four years ago, the Roses bought an old shearing shed from a nearby farm and relocated it to the site in Williams.
They rebuilt the shearing shed and turned it into a museum, which features the WA wool industry.
“A lot of tourists stop in on their way to or from Albany,” Lawrence said.
“We hold shearing demonstrations in the museum.
Tourists’ main concern is whether it hurts the sheep. We aim to get them to understand wool.”
The Woolshed is open 8am to 4pm, seven days a week.
“We are fully licensed and open in the evenings for functions of at least 20 people — Christmas and birthday parties, for example. Often, retired farmers catch up with the next generation here. We are halfway between Hyden and Busselton.”
Lawrence’s back is no longer a problem.
“I’ve been pain-free for eight years. The only lifting I do is when I catch sheep for the shearing demonstrations,” he said.
“Heather and I don’t plan to retire while we are enjoying what we do. Eventually, we’ll put the Woolshed on the market and retire ungraciously. We would like to spend more time with our 10 grandchildren.”
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