The owner of Richmond small business Rowena Corner Store says he and his staff are facing days of “happy stress” after a mural of Brownlow medalist Dustin Martin popped up on the side of the business this week, even piquing the interest of the Prime Minister.
On Monday night, Richmond Football Club sponsor PUMA Australia painted a mural of Martin on a street corner close to the club’s training ground, on the wall of the cafe business owned by Con Coustas.
The exercise may have been initiated by a global sportswear giant, but the impact on Rowena Corner store has also been massive.
“It’s been hectic — we’ve had a visit from the PM this morning,” Coustas tells SmartCompany.
“It was surreal: I was showing the prime minister through our humble establishment.”
Malcolm Turnbull took some time out of his Friday morning in Melbourne to join the throngs of Richmond supporters grabbing a coffee and having their photos taken in front of the mural, which Coustas says has become “an alter” for Richmond fans ahead of tomorrow’s AFL grand final.
“I did get him [Turnbull] to yell ‘Go Tiges!’ It was an easy, down to earth meeting,” says Coustas.
Rowena Corner Store was established back in 1956 as a milk bar and is one of the longest running businesses in Richmond. After undergoing a significant renovation in 2000, it now operates as a both a food store and cafe.
The process of locking in the mural project with PUMA and Richmond Football Club happened “over weeks”, Coustas says, but now that the image is generating such significant crowds, he says his team is feeling a bit of pressure.
“I’m not sure if it’s happy days or happy stress — my staff do look a bit stressed,” he says.
However, given the cafe is run by diehard Tigers fans, signing on to the mural project was a no-brainer.
“We love our Tigers, they’re an integral part of who we are,” Coustas says.
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The corner store has welcomed a range of guests over the past week: Turnbull was busy chatting and having a coffee with young supporters this morning, while AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan also popped down to pose with the image this week.
This isn’t the first time a Melbourne small business has seen the effects of painting their shopfronts team colours: in 2016, the owners of Yarraville’s Railway Hotel told SmartCompany the business had been “flat out” in Grand Final week after painting the venue in Western Bulldogs colours.
Coustas says Rowena Corner Store is an “endurance” business, and not used to catering for such phenomenal crowds.
“We feed people at all hours, we go all day,” he says, although not at some of the massive volumes the business has seen this week.
Even so, it’s worth it because “Richmond is alight,” he says. The attention for the business is great, but all eyes are not firmly on tomorrow’s grand final game.
“We’re hardcore Richmond supporters. The rest is all window dressing,” he says.