With an eclectic mix of iconic businesses, national brands and relaxed eateries set alongside clear waters, shimmering sands and lush rainforest, it’s no surprise that Hastings Street is known as the heart of Noosa.
This beating heart and natural magic, infused with the friendliness of the locals, create a unique relaxed vibe with global appeal.
Behind the success of Hastings Street are energised and enthusiastic business owners who genuinely care about maintaining and enhancing the precinct, carefully balancing various uses to ensure a welcoming experience for everyone.
VIBE BETTER THAN EVER
Ask any business owner about the current vibe in the street, and they all respond similarly, with terms like optimism, positivity and strength of spirit.
There’s no sugar-coating the challenges of the past two years. The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, especially the food and beverage sector. But each day the sun rises over Noosa Main Beach is another opportunity for this resilient community to show up and do what they do best, whether in hospo, retail, fashion or accommodation.
Long-time local and owner of Jive Art at the artsy Noosa Woods end of Hasting Street, Jan Sinclair, says “the spirit on the street has remained strong all the way through. Even after lockdowns, most of us put on a brave face and welcomed people as they came back. People in the street remained upbeat.”
Many agree that the Hastings Street vibe is now better than ever. Numbers are up over the preceding three years, and there is a consensus that things are better economically than before the pandemic.
Alesha Gooderham, Hastings Street Association project manager, says everyone is buoyed by the buzz in the street.
“The vibe is one of optimism. We do scores on the doors with businesses to find out how things are tracking and since the start of the year, it has been positive,” Alesha says.
COOPERATION AND COLLABORATION
Behind the scenes of Hastings Street is an engine focused on creating a people-friendly street that is also socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. That engine is the Hastings Street Association, made up of eight volunteer business owners representing different sectors to ensure each has a voice in the direction and management of the precinct.
“If you lifted the bonnet, you’d find an incredible amount of cooperation and collaboration”, says Alesha.
“Hastings Street has daily movement flows, from early morning walkers and swimmers to the people out for breakfast, then families, shoppers and long lunches before moving into evening diners. There are many different needs,” she said.
“Everything impacts how the street works for each group – from when the rubbish gets collected to what time we sweep the boardwalk to landscaping and street lighting. We constantly ask how can we create a memorable experience that people enjoy while also maintaining the fundamental elements that make it such a loved and iconic destination.”
Paying attention to these less glamorous aspects yields smoother operations for everyone. Larger bins mean less rubbish collection noise, while daily street brushes organised by the association help individual businesses conserve water. Events are balanced with the space requirements of other visitors and programmed so businesses gain from the use of public spaces.
The association is active in every aspect of the street, including collaborating with Noosa Council and other bodies on infrastructure, development and transport, managing security and consolidating information to help businesses make better decisions.
RESILIENCE AND RECOVERY
Jan Sinclair sees Hastings Street as an economic driver for the wider region and is impressed with its resilience.
“Over 18 years, I’ve seen visitation ebb and flow for reasons that had little to do with Hastings Street or Noosa. The street adapts and recovers fairly well,” Jan says.
“When international tourism slows, people from Sydney and Melbourne visit. The pandemic and the GFC brought a lot of Queenslanders back to Hastings Street, taking advantage of opportunities for shorter booking windows. Australians have a perennial love affair with Hastings Street. They always come back.”
Post-GFC, Hastings Street struggled, with around a third of the shops empty. At the time, Jan was on the board of Tourism Noosa and locals were concerned. Jan credits Ray White Commercial Noosa & Sunshine Coast North for helping to get the street back on its feet.
“Paul Butler and the team pulled out every stop to get every shop filled over 12 months. They were instrumental in attracting people to the main street and did it passionately and consistently,” she said.
“There was a strong focus on bringing young people with a different energy to the street and helping them feel at home. People who would normally target other areas were invited to come in and give it a go. Paul worked with owners to offer greater flexibility and short term leases. It was transformative.”
Many existing owners and investors also upgraded their properties. The new energy helped to invigorate the street.
“We have always held a strong belief in the potential of Hastings Street and we want the precinct and local businesses to succeed,” says Paul Butler. “Hastings Street is a core part of our business. Ray White Commercial Noosa & Sunshine Coast North is embedded into the community, has unparalleled local market knowledge and has matched countless business owners with properties in the street over the past 20 years.”
DIVERSE COMMERCIAL MIX
The influx of new, younger business owners which has only heightened since the pandemic started, has fuelled a shift from traditional fine dining to now include a more casual bistro-style food culture. Younger folks bring their urban influences for a more accessible, relaxed and experience-oriented offering.
Hastings Street has always boasted a diverse commercial mix but food and beverage has dominated in recent years. There was a seven percent increase in food and beverage between 2015 and 2021 and enquiries continue to be strong, according to Ray White Commercial Noosa & Sunshine Coast North Principal Paul Forrest.
“There has been a consistent increase in demand for premises for food and beverage since the post GFC recovery,” Paul said.
“Smaller-scale operators like Acai Bros or Raw and Rice are favouring takeaway style premises. Larger full restaurant operations like Bang Bang, which opened its second offering in Hastings Street, are killing it alongside established names like Locale and Aromas.”
The ability to work from anywhere has increased demand for early morning eateries and coffee options, expanding opportunities for existing restaurants to move into the breakfast and takeaway space.
RAISING THE STAKES
There’s also growing interest from national and international brands. Paul Butler sees the recent opening of the first MECCA cosmetics resort concept store as a perfect example of a brand honing its offering to meet the market.
Paul first approached this iconic Australian brand over 14 months ago with the proposal to open a store in Hastings Street, working with their team to secure the perfect premises for their first “resort” store, which is uniquely designed to capture a market beyond their traditional major shopping centre offering.
“MECCA has given serious thought to how they present in Hastings Street, taking the time to create a resort-style store in tune with the local offering, complete with resort-inspired staff uniforms,” said Paul.
The new kids on the block are raising the stakes, with substantial investment in fitouts and carefully curated spaces that suit the Noosa vibe or mix things up.
In retail, it’s open space, natural materials, high ceilings, quality fixtures and plenty of natural light. In food and beverage, it’s more about cosy nooks, mood lighting, shared tables, green walls and industrial-inspired finishes.
SET UP FOR SUCCESS
Asked about the enduring appeal of Hastings Street for business owners, Alesha says it’s all about the unique qualities of Noosa.
“The appeal lies in a recognisable destination, coupled with a finite footprint and guaranteed foot traffic from visitors, day-trippers and locals. People walk the street as a journey, so everyone has a chance to be seen. If you get your offer right and position yourself in the best possible way, you have every chance of being successful.”
“Everyone who works in the street has buy-in to the streets’ success. There’s a real sense of pride in where you work, live and play,” says Alesha.
Jan concurs, saying that anyone is welcome to join the community, start a business and have a go.
“It’s great for entrepreneurs and new businesses because other business owners will surround you with advice and support. If you check social media, we all like and share each other’s posts. We all benefit if businesses stand out and drive people to the street.”
PANDEMIC INNOVATION AND COMMUNICATION
Many business owners had an opportunity to improve their business, innovate and renovate during the pandemic, which has helped the precinct’s recovery.
“The macroeconomy was stagnating a little before the pandemic and I think the rent relief and incentives for small businesses to invest and improve helped. During the two-month lockdown, I rebuilt an art website on Shopify and was completely flabbergasted when I made my first online sale two days after launch,” Jan said.
Rio Capurso is one of the well-known personalities of Hastings Street. The owner of Locale, renowned for its impeccable service and authentic Italian-inspired food, has been on Hastings Street for 25 years, first working in hospitality, then opening Lindoni’s Ristorante before launching Locale more than eight years ago.
Rio has seen it all – people coming and going, economic ups and downs, businesses such as Betty’s Burgers which started small and went on to achieve unbelievable success. He even recalls when a photo processing lab was one of the busiest places on the street.
But the staffing shortages brought on by the pandemic were like nothing Rio had seen before. He knew he needed to do something creative to keep the doors open. His 16-year-old son had worked in the family business for three years which gave him the idea to train and employ local students.
“By giving local kids the opportunity to learn and train in hospitality, it solved the staffing issue and created a new resource of trained hospitality workers in the area. It took more time but meant I had more control over staffing,” says Rio.
The pandemic has also improved cross-sector communication. More venues now support local farmers and have closer relationships with local growers. When a local supplier has excess stock, the Hastings Street Association now notifies food and beverage operators about opportunities to buy direct.
RECIPE FOR OPTIMISM
If Easter is anything to go by, Hastings Street has undoubtedly found a new flow. But what will the future hold? As Jan prepares to close the doors on her gallery for the last time in August (she’s retiring for the second time and this time with no major commitments), she’s optimistic.
“I don’t think Australians or the world will fall out of love with Hastings Street any time soon. International visitors are starting to return, which is wonderful as it brings a more cosmopolitan feel to the village.”
“It’s one of the world’s most beautiful spots, surrounded by national park. We have a bunch of caring people who care about the quality of life and protecting the environment as well as their businesses. What a recipe for waking up every day and being optimistic about what the day will bring.”
To get in touch with the team at Ray White Commercial Noosa & Sunshine Coast North call +617 5474 7600 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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