I first came across this phenomenon in Padstow, Cornwall, UK. The town is often called ‘Padstein’ because Rick Stein, the chef famous for his cookbooks, restaurants and TV shows, owns many businesses there. It is said that he has come to symbolise Padstow and he has certainly had a huge impact on the economy there.
This weekend I went to Dunkeld, Victoria at the southern edge of the Grampians. I stayed at the Royal Mail Hotel at one of their cottages a short drive from the centre. I saw much evidence of the presence of the business, owned by Allan Myers QC – the kitchen gardens and the orchards, both set for expansion, the impressive new cellar and the new restaurant due to open in October – scattered throughout the town. He also owns the bookstore and various other buildings. He has sunk millions of dollars into creating a town that appears to be healthy and thriving.
In both towns locals have both praised the growth and bemoaned the fact that it feels like the town has been appropriated. For some there is a sense of a loss of community ownership. However, I felt pretty sure that Dunkeld would be struggling without it and that maybe take-over is a small price to pay for securing a small town’s future. At least they are not calling it Myerstown.