Kids can feel comfortable here!
“Every shop you go into, you see parents chastise their kids — Don't touch! Shush! Wait a minute! — every shop you walk into, that’s what you do as a parent or grandparent because you don't want them to touch stuff or break anything,” said Kelly Ward, who decided to do things a little different when she took over the iconic Coronet Milk Bar in Summer Street three years ago.
“I decided this needed to be child friendly and child safe, so this shop belongs to the children of Orange and I yell at grandparents and I yell at parents, but no child is yelled at and they are not told they can't touch —sure, my glass is never clean, but that's what kids do!”
Dating back to the 1940s, the Coronet Milk Bar is a link back in time. The original counter is still pride of place in store and they still make the chocolate topping in house as it has been done for decade.
In the city and in so many country towns the milk bar has become a thing of the past, but Kelly and her son Riley are determined to see the Coronet flourish and be enjoyed by the next generation of Orange kids.
“I love the place! I've been coming here since I was a kid, it has been going such a long time and I just didn't want to see us lose it,” said Kelly.
“You can't buy what it gives. I've had a grandfather, father and grandson all lined up at that milk bar with the grandfather telling his grandson ‘I sat here at your age and had a milkshake’ — that's three generations of the one family and I get it nearly every second day in here.
“I've got daughters who are now going to uni and their first stop when they get back in town and their father picks them up is here to have a milkshake because that it something they've always done together at the Coronet.”
In pride of place of the shop wall, Kelly has a board full of clippings celebrating the achievements of kids who frequent the Coronet.
“Our Coronet ‘Wall of Fame’ — these are my kids,” said Kelly, with genuine pride. “So, if they make the paper for dance or anything and I spot them I put them up on the wall, because then they come in here and see themselves and I've had kids bring friends in here and say, ‘Look, I made the wall!’”
For Kelly, the children who frequent her store come first. More than just running a business, she has made the Coronet a little safe haven and friendly space where kids know they will be welcome.
“I have a huge amount of kids that I see three to four times a week — I see my grand-kids less than that — so I’m very attached to all these children,” she said.
“We really wanted to make this child safe, and that is the way we run it. Kids can come in and ask us for help, I get kids from the skate park needing a band-aid or a bit of a fix up, I get kids that have been bullied down town and come up here and if they are not ready to get back into the world I can call the parents and they can come and get them and I'll keep them here until they do.
“The kids know our staff and they feel comfortable in here. They can just come in, they don’t have to have money, it is just a safe space. So, if they want to come in here and do a bit of homework or hang out for the afternoon, it’s OK.”