New Gymea Village shop has art and soul - but will it survive COVID?

Shivaun Weybury and Georgia, 6, at Lonely Coat. Picture: Chris Lane
Shivaun Weybury and Georgia, 6, at Lonely Coat. Picture: Chris Lane

Shivaun Weybury's timing couldn't have been worse, but like other small business owners she is trying to stay positive and hope for better days ahead.

In mid-May, Ms Weybury opened Lonely Coat Books and Art in Gymea Shopping Village - a shop which offered something different in the shire and attracted much interest.

Then came the COVID lockdown.

"I am struggling to make the rent and I am not sure I am eligible for government support as I can't compare figures with last year," Ms Weybury said.

"I am frantically trying to get things online and build a social media presence, which is not necessarily my forte.

"Hopefully, I can make it work until the virus is back under control, not just for me but for the sake of the community who really seem to want something like this.

Something different: Shivaun and Georgia Weybury inside Lonely Coat in Gymea Bay Road. Picture: Chris Lane

Something different: Shivaun and Georgia Weybury inside Lonely Coat in Gymea Bay Road. Picture: Chris Lane

"I have to keep positive. I don't think I have any choice, I just have to keep going."

Ms Weybury's daughter Georgia, six, who is on the autism spectrum, was responsible for the shop's name.

"When we would leave a piece of clothing or something in the car, Georgia would be worried it would get lonely," her mother explained.

Ms Weybury said, before lockdown, the salon-style shop was "doing really well, and people were incredibly supportive and very enthusiastic".

"There are a lot of creative people in the shire and Lonely Coat fits the Gymea village vibe," she said.

The shop sells art, books, toys, games and jewellery.

"Basically, it is dedicated to anything that is art related - art design, creativity, colour, things that I think help people feel a bit less burdened and a bit more connected to each other and the world.

"Everything is either hand made, about art or made in a meticulous fashion with a lot of attention to detail.

"The toys are made in France and they are almost like heirloom objects and incredibly sweet.

"The jewellery is hand made by one person and the artwork is by artists local to the shire.

"Little games are art related and made by a person who wants to help children be more creative.

"With the books, I choose publishers I know are really focused on art and design. I trawl through their collections and pick things out."

Ms Weybury is an artist and also has a PhD in Art History.

For many years, she taught and worked at the University of NSW, firstly at the College of Fine Arts and later as a learning adviser in the Learning Centre.

"A lot of what I was doing was helping people who had some sort of disadvantage, disruption or whatever get into university," she said.

"I focused on using artwork to help people understand some of the complex concepts they were having to deal with.

"Universities are having a rough trot at the moment and, last year I was made redundant.

"I thought I could either look for another job in a similar capacity or do something like this, which I had often thought about."

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