Monthly Chronicle - - News - AN­THONY BREW­STER

Josephine Bourke loves fash­ion and amongst fam­ily and friends she is the ‘go to’ per­son for fash­ion ad­vice. On Satur­day Fe­bru­ary 13th, she will be of­fi­cially open­ing her new store in Thorn­leigh which is ap­pro­pri­ately named Josephine’s Em­po­rium.

It will spe­cialise in women’s clothes and ac­ces­sories, cos­tume jew­ellery and col­lectibles.

But, the open­ing of a re­tail space is hardly new. The real story of the Em­po­rium is in the back­ground tale of her fam­ily which forms part of his­tor­i­cal foun­da­tion of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

Josephine’s fam­ily has been in the Thorn­leigh/ Normanhurst/Pen­nant Hills area since be­fore the early 1920’s.

The fam­ily have had a pres­ence in Thorn­leigh for more than 80 years. Her mother, Mary Brown, was con­sid­ered some­one of ‘high pro­file’ in the area. Their fam­ily, the Baynie’s, owned an es­tate which, aside from some street names, is now all but for­got­ten. Most of the land was on ei­ther side of Pen­nant Hills Road, where McDon­alds and Bun­nings now stand. In fact on the op­po­site side of Pen­nant Hills Road is where the fam­ily built a fac­tory for dress­mak­ing with var­i­ous cloth­ing ma­te­ri­als sourced and pro­duced.

The fac­tory it­self, was de­signed to al­low women an out­let for cre­ativ­ity, but its pri­mary source of work­ers were mi­grants, pre­dom­i­nantly Le­banese, which re­flected the fam­ily’s her­itage. Mary Brown wel­comed them with open arms to the area, pro­vid­ing them with em­ploy­ment and build­ing a com­mu­nity. The cur­rent sig­nif­i­cant Le­banese com­mu­nity in the area can trace its roots back to this time.

The new Em­po­rium will not just be re­tail space. Josephine and her cur­rent fam­ily hopes it will reignite the same sense of com­mu­nity that ex­isted back when her mother and grand­mother were oper­at­ing the fac­tory. Back then ev­ery­one knew each other. The Em­po­rium is de­signed as a meet­ing place, espe­cially for women, as much as a re­tail space.

The new fam­ily business will be op­er­ated as not for profit with any sur­plus funds be­ing di­rected to char­i­ties such as the Con­gre­ga­tion of the Good Sa­mar­i­tan Sis­ters in Kiri­bati.

The new store is lo­cated at 8C Sta­tion Street Thorn­leigh, across from Aldi.

Josephine Bourke in her new em­po­rium in Thorn­leigh Photo: An­thony Brew­ster

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