Strategically located on the corner of Commercial Road and Wollumbin Street at the entrance to Murwillumbah, you can’t miss the stunning Art Deco building steeped in local history.
Built in 1935 by Con Vlismas, no detail was spared to enhance the majestic Astral Building. With striking large windows wrapping around the corner and an elegant Art Deco glass strip highlighting the windows, it certainly makes a statement. It was described upon launch by The Tweed Daily as ‘one of the finest constructions on the north coast’.
Now home to MANA real estate, the building has a fascinating history. Thomas and Mary Tong were the first tenants in the building, opening Tong’s General Store on the ground floor in 1935. Here they sold groceries, produce, mercery, drapery, quilts, cushion covers and mats.
In the early years it was a family run business, but during WW2 when two of Thomas and Mary’s sons were conscripted, the Tong’s employed additional staff, with up to 12 people working there. One local, June Dwyer, was employed from 1942-1952 and used to ride her bike around town to collect customer orders, and after returning to the store to fill the orders, June would drive the delivery truck to personally deliver the orders in the afternoon.
Tong’s General Store became a Murwillumbah institution and locals used to call it ‘Tong’s Corner’. The ground floor is now occupied by MANA real estate, who moved in in 2019.
“We couldn’t resist the opportunity to move into such a prime location. We are the first thing you see as you come off the bridge into Murwillumbah,” says Julie-Ann Manahan, founder of MANA.
Stepping over patterned tiles, you enter the space through the Art Deco double doors. It’s a grand historical entrance. You can’t help but wonder how many people have walked through those doors since 1935!
“We wanted to honour and enhance the original features, rather than detract from them,” says Julie-Ann. “The space is so light and bright, however when we moved in it was a drab grey throughout. We painted it white, with our signature orange, black and white branding on the back wall.”
It’s impossible to miss the bold signage as you drive past. The window displays are eye-catching and are designed to create interest and intrigue. “We like to shake things up,” says Julie-Ann. “We are not your typical real estate agency, we do things differently.”
The reception area is warm and welcoming. Open-plan, the space is separated by tasteful built-in dividers. This creates an element of privacy between the reception area and the team members, yet it doesn’t block anyone out. There’s a glass divider near the reception desk which lets natural light stream through to the back of the office.
“It’s important we are always available and visible to the street,” says Julie-Ann. “We often have locals stop by for a chat, pick up a copy of The Echo or wander in to enquire about a property. That’s what we love about being in a central location, we feel a part of the community.”
It seems this prime position on Commercial Road has historically been a hub for the locals in Murwillumbah. And with MANA in the space, it will continue to be.
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We look forward to sharing more local news next month.