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“Why would you go to Paris or New York or London when you get everything you need in Toowoomba?”

Shopping is big business, and with so many locals turning to shopping online or travelling to Brisbane
for their retail therapy, organisation City Heart Toowoomba is doing its best to keep dollars in town and build toward a more vibrant city centre. The committee behind the group is using community events, like the monthly Margaret Street Markets, to bring residents and visitors back into the CBD to revitalise Toowoomba commerce.

Headed up by the recently re-appointed president, Gary Wilson of Gelatissimo, City Heart Toowoomba is reflecting on an overwhelmingly successful 2015 and looking ahead to more events in 2016. The management team also includes Chris Gay of Elia Architecture, Christine Coorey of children’s store 3 Little Monkeys, former Chamber of Commerce CEO Greg Johnson and Jan Gorring from the QCWA. “The whole point of City Heart Toowoomba is to revive the CBD, getting more people to shop in the streets of the CBD,” says Greg Johnson. “We will do whatever we can and be as innovative as we possibly can. The markets are phenomenal. It started to profile local producers, artisans and craftspeople. It is about ‘local’, fundamentally.”

Since starting up in 2012, the group has established the Margaret Street Markets, Christmas in the CBD, been involved in the Carnival of Flowers and this year introduced the City Heart Fashion Event. Greg says the City Heart Fashion Event had “been on the agenda for some years. We were recognising that women buy clothes; they would go to Brisbane or order online, not realising what wonderful fashion we have in Toowoomba. The concept was to make people aware in the nicest possible way that we’ve got everything here. The idea was to profile leading fashion stores in Toowoomba and excite local women into buying local.”

Local stores were excited and jumped on board for the event. The inaugural event was held at the Empire Theatre and was put together with local talent including local models, some of whom have overseas modelling experience. The 2015 City Heart Fashion Event in September brought together the best of fashion, beauty and entertainment in the Toowoomba CBD on one evening. Toowoomba CBD fashion houses and boutiques showcased their coming season fashions for the event. Participants included Bella Fille, Cinnamon Blue, Hannas Department Store, Ivy Designer Collections, NB Style, Oriri, Smoke and Mirrors, The Linen Chest, designer Carolyn Taylor-Smith and milliner Rae Copeland.

As media spokesperson for City Heart Toowoomba, Greg Johnson uses lines like, “why would you go to Paris or New York or London, when you can get everything you need in Toowoomba? That was our first event. We’ll be looking to make it twice as big next time,” he says. “We knew we were onto something really special at the media event. You could feel the buzz in the room.”

Locals can look forward to the Christmas markets in Margaret Street in December and again in February 2016.

Words by Alice Thompson

Images by Theresa Hall