by Elize Strydom
Heart of Space
This big hearted business combines a passion for creativity and collaboration with a commitment to the local community. Stocking a considered collection of women’s clothing, jewellery, homewares and plants. Heart of Space is owned and run by sisters Leeane Wakefield and Theresa Brook.
Opening in April 2017, Leeane and Theresa say their shopfront on River Street was meant to be. After viewing a number of spaces that weren’t quite right, they were feeling deflated. Linking arms as they crossed Maclean’s main street, Leeane attempted to lift the mood. “Come on, sis,” she coaxed. “We’ll find something.” Moments later, they noticed a shop being painted. It instantly struck them as perfect but they assumed it was already taken. A quick chat with Mel from the nearby florist revealed that their assumption was incorrect – owner John Snape was looking for a tenant. At almost 100 years old, the historical building is loved by locals and contains many stories. It’s had multiple lives – one as an MG showroom, another as a mechanic’s workshop and yet another as a petrol station.
“There are still a few hints of the past around the shop including the MG sticker on the front window of our store,” Theresa points out.
She describes Heart of Space as vibrant, eclectic, warm, nostalgic and a lot of fun.
“We are not about being aesthetically perfect,” she says.
In the beginning when Leeane and Theresa were testing the waters, they ordered a modest amount of stock and worked with a small budget.
“We love fashion but we didn’t know how to do it or if it would work so we took a risk,” Leeane remembers. “We quickly sold out of almost everything we’d bought and when we were down to just one necklace, we realised it was working!”
What they lacked in stock, they made up for in fun and quirky decor. Theresa focused on bringing her unique ideas to life by installing intriguing and appealing props.
“Rather than filling the shop with stuff, I created a vision,” Theresa explains. “We had a swing in the window and a caravan inside. There were all sorts of props around the space.”
While Leeane and Theresa are at the helm, Heart of Space is clearly an inclusive family affair. The sisters describe their mother Lynnie as their rock and say she works in the shop one day a week. Their husbands provide endless support and put their building skills to good use when the space needs a makeover. Their daughters model in photoshoots for social media and Theresa’s 13 year old Torah even stocks her own clothing line in the store.
“As a family, we’ve collectively pieced together a unique recipe,” Theresa observes. “Leeane is great with people; she’s really uplifting and helps them see the things they can’t see in themselves.”
Leeane jokes that Theresa is the one person she’d like to be stuck with on a deserted island.
“She’s really good at problem solving and it’s great to have someone like that on your team,” she says. “We lock horns from time to time, but we always work it out.”
Together, the sisters say their ability to adapt to change is their greatest strength. When confronted with the frightening uncertainties of COVID-19, they focused on using what they had to support those in need.
“We sell cleaning products so we ordered sanitiser in bulk from our Australian supplier,” Leeane says. “It was very upsetting to hear that people who needed sanitiser couldn’t get it, so we started supplying to schools, daycare centres and local businesses.”
While challenges inevitably arise when running a small business, Leeane remains philosophical.
“Our approach is to forget the past, try not to think too much about the future – because we don’t know what will happen – and just focus on being relevant now,” she explains.
Instead of simply following trends, Leeane and Theresa seek out genuine inspiration by exposing themselves to a wide variety of influences.
Their creative process is organic and authentic. Scroll through the Heart of Space Instagram page and you’ll see their colourful fashion stories – collaborations with local women and businesses. Owner of B&K Blinds in Yamba, Jody Coulter has modelled in stories shot at Maclean Hotel and Eyecare Plus Optometrist in Maclean.
“We like to pick a theme,” Theresa says. “One was ‘Shop Til You Drop’ so we had our model laying on the ground surrounded by shopping bags with flowers in her hair. She shopped and she dropped!”
“When we go on our fashion buying trips we have so much fun,” says Leeane. “We sit on the plane to Sydney sipping champagne and think about a colour we like. Then we go to the art galleries and get inspired.”
So much more than just another cookie-cutter chain store pushing fast fashion, Heart of Space is the manifestation of all Leeane and Theresa hold dear. Their passion, dedication and consideration is clearly on display and they can’t wait to welcome you in soon.