3 August 2023

Artful Pantry’s fusion of art and gourmet food bringing a touch of Europe to Kiama

| Kellie O'Brien
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two women in their food store

Artful Pantry owner Sheree Bailey (right) with her sister, artist Belinda Doyle, whose work is featured in the new Kiama shop. Photo: Destination Kiama.

More akin to shops found in European streets, Kiama’s newly opened Artful Pantry is conjuring up emotional responses and exciting the senses through its fusion of art and gourmet foods.

Sheree Bailey opened Artful Pantry in June and is keen to build upon the Australian-made artisan produce already stocked.

Sheree, who also owns the more handmade-focused The Collective stores in Gerringong and Kiama, has been running the pantry business out of The Collective in Gerringong for about 18 months.

She stocks unique foods from around Australia and the Illawarra not typically found at your local supermarket.

“Then, on top of that, my sister’s an artist and we’ve always thought that a food and art shop would just go really well together,” Sheree said.

“We see the same emotional reaction – we find art and food just excite the senses.

“It triggers something in you when you eat or when you look at a piece of art, so putting the two together is really quite beautiful.”

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Sheree said she felt Kiama needed something new and different, and food was always in the back of her mind.

“I’m really passionate about it and I’ve built that business inside The Collective to be a very strong business,” she said.

“I feel like art and food are very European.

“I’ve had quite a few people say that a lot of shops in Europe are like this, where it’s gourmet and yummy and warm and there are salamis, but lots of art and that homely feeling.

“We’re really picky about what comes in and how to keep the money in the local area.”

Sheree’s other motivation was being a foodie but having limitations on what she can eat due to health issues.

“I was born with multiple severe food problems and I’ve just been recently diagnosed coeliac as well,” she said.

“So my whole life I’ve spent researching everything.

“We’ve been bringing in a lot of gluten-free because we’re finding Kiama, in particular, just doesn’t cater for it.”

She stocks fresh coeliac baked bread from Shellharbour’s Sans Gluten, Kangaroo Valley Olives, Pebbly Path rocky road from Mudgee and, within the gourmet deli fridge, Tilba Cheese and Sydney’s Salame Casareccio.

“A lot of the food itself has come from research – from award-winning around Australia, locally produced or just something that’s different,” she said.

“I love a good trip to the Hunter Valley, so I guess I’ve been inspired by the Hunter Valley as well.”

A do-it-yourself hamper station has also been set up.

“The idea behind that was from COVID, where we put the packs together for people,” she said.

“And that’s when I noticed a few people were like, ‘Oh, can I swap this out? And can I change that?’ and I was like, you know, let’s just let them build their own and help them put it all together.”

She said there was nothing worse than buying a generic hamper, opening it and realising you didn’t like, or couldn’t eat, three-quarters of it.

While Sheree will start attending local food and wine festivals to source more produce from businesses, she was also calling on South Coast producers and businesses looking to wholesale.

“A lot of the people that I’ve tried to approach either don’t wholesale or are already under the pump doing 1000 markets,” she said.

However, she said it could be a great stepping stone for businesses not ready to be stocked in supermarkets yet.

“We’ve got a few things in there that are getting bigger in the market, but if they hit Woolworths shelves, I can’t do them,” she said.

Once they were in supermarkets, “they’ve now hit where they need to be in their business and other small businesses need our help”.

“That’s how I prefer it. That’s what I love,” she said.

“There’s a pride to it for me.

“I’m a South Coast girl – I was born and bred here – so for me, talking to tourists who are visiting and oohing over yummy food that’s also local and has a story behind it, that’s what I love to talk to people about.

“Same as art. There’s always a story between that piece.”

Artists within Artful Pantry include Foxytrot, who started at Sydney’s DisneyToons Studios and has been an illustrator since.

“Her works of the Australiana – the koalas and the kangaroos – are just insane,” Sheree said.

“The Vegemite jars and Weet-Bix tins mixed with a floral botanical are beautiful.”

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Another featured artist is her sister, Jamberoo’s Belinda Doyle.

“She’s the same as me, born and raised on the South Coast, lives in Jamberoo, but she travels all the way from Wollongong to the Narooma area taking landscape and drone photography,” she said.

“She also does resins, so all the beautiful grazing boards that we present on.”

Sheree said with the art gallery closed and the Old Fire Station now Kiama’s only art space, Artful Pantry gave artists another outlet to showcase their work.

A large table has been set up in the middle of the space to run workshops, such as ”how to put a grazing board together” and ”learn to draw”.

Artful Pantry is in Terralong St, Kiama.

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