White Christmas in Williams

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Bob GarnantThe West Australian
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Christmas cheer has taken on an Australian theme in the town of Williams and visitors are revelling.

Inside the Williams Woolshed, a bustling food and shopping complex, stands a snow white yuletide tree with a unique make-up.

It is not a typical spruce, pine nor fir, although it does contain some natural content in the form of locally produced Merino wool in which the tree glistens.

The new owners of the Woolshed (built in 2002) have been congratulated several times over for displaying such a marvel at the centre of one of WA's best growing wool districts.

The facility is owned by Ryan and Sara Duff and Simon and Kim Maylor, who formed a partnership and bought the Woolshed in October.

"The Woolshed tree has created so much conversation," Mrs Duff said.

The Williams primary teacher was inspired to create the sculptured tree after her friend, interior designer Joanna Macnamara, suggested she re-invent the 16th century Christmas tree tradition and use wool as a medium.

Over a steel A-frame shape she wrapped around chicken wire and busily stuffed in freshly shorn wool, and was overcome with Christmas joy as the tree sculpture took shape.

Trimming the tree was made easy with a pair of hand shears, and the one-of-a-kind woolly wonder was dressed with a scoured and spun soft-as-silk Merino ribbon.

Both couples have had many well-deserved compliments as they greeted customers who cannot walk pass the tree without taking a selfie photo.

"It has brought a bit of the Christmas cheer to travellers who visit for a lunch break," Mr Duff said.

The former Williams Shire chief executive said the wool was produced by his father Glenn Ford, who runs Merino sheep in the district.

"We are confident about the iconic Woolshed which attracts Albany highway travellers and accounts for 90 per cent of our revenue stream," he said. "The town of Williams as a whole will continue to benefit as tourism grows."

Kim Maylor, who is Mr Duff's cousin, said family reasons led to the purchase of the Woolshed.

"Our main incentive was to provide a good upbringing for our children," she said.

The Maylors have two young boys, Harrison and Darcy, and the Duffs have one girl, Emmi and two boys, James and Max.

But the couples were also easily convinced their tree change lifestyle would have financial rewards if they pressed on with the already established business venture.

"We were sold on the wonderful business that previous owners Lawrence and Heather Rose established," Mrs Maylor said.

"They have really put their heart and soul into creating a one-of-a-kind shopping, eatery and entertainment complex."

Mrs Maylor continues to manage her Perth hair salon businesses and her husband Simon has put on hold his mining background to form the partnership with the Duffs.

"We are thinking of adding a playground with a farming theme," Mr Maylor said.

Plans are also under way to bring more tourists into the Shearer's Yarn section, an entertainment addition to the Woolshed designed to celebrate the wool industry.

"There is so much potential to bring entertainment to both the local community and those visitors who would like to discover more about local farming life," Mr Maylor said.

The Woolshed is in good hands with the enthusiastic new owners, and Christmas has surely come early for visitors, who wonder in amazement at the wool tree dressed in a fabric that built a nation.

The Woolshed hours are 9am to 4pm daily, closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

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