Tough economy proves no challenge for cancer survivor

Cancer survivor Julie Strange at Tugun Family Jewels.
Cancer survivor Julie Strange at Tugun Family Jewels. John Gass

TUGUN'S Julie Strange was told she was crazy for opening a homewares, gifts and fashion store in the current economic climate.

But after surviving breast cancer including 12 chemo treatments, 30 hits of radiation and a double mastectomy, tough retail conditions and the challenge posed by online shopping are a comparative walk in the park.

No sooner had Julie opened Tugun's Family Jewels on Golden Four Dr on September 15 than she was swamped.

"People were buying up two or three items at a time. It was madness," she exclaims.

"There's been many a time when both fitting rooms are occupied and I've had people in the storeroom trying clothes."

She says many customers comment on the reasonable prices and she has regulars who drop by just to see what's new in store.

Cancer survivor Julie Strange at Tugun family jewells. Photo: John Gass / Daily News
Cancer survivor Julie Strange at Tugun family jewells. Photo: John Gass / Daily News John Gass

Julie had intended to concentrate on homewares and gifts.

But female workers in the village said they were tired of having to leave the area to buy clothes.

"Our customer base has been aged 15-70 plus lots in between," she says.

"People do still have that bit of money for small luxuries, feel-good things."

With help from husband Michael, she's created a warm and fragrant space with a shabby-chic-old-beach-house vibe predominantly using recycled materials.

The counter is made fashioned out of three white-washed timber doors topped with a panel of glass.

The change rooms have the look of an old garden shed including a corrugated iron roof from an old Queenslander and French windows and walls all finished with a whitewash.

The fashion, which Julie has sourced predominantly from Australian designers and India, reflects Tweed's laid-back style.

Racks of floral maxi-dresses are mixed with leather-look jumpsuits, 3/4 pants in striking magenta and cobalt blue, and a colourful array of shoes starting from $45.

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2008, Julie did two years of treatment plus ongoing participation in a drug trial.

She hopes her retail venture marks a healthy new era in her life.

"My husband was concerned the stress (of going into business) would affect my health," she says.

"But it's been an exciting stress rather than a worry stress. Life is short. Follow your dream and do what makes you happy."

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