Gift shop has an Australian story behind every item

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Owner Dan Butt… “Over the years, we’ve formed relationships with the people who create what we sell and we love being able to tell our customers their stories.”

Celebrating 30 years in business, Australian Choice features high quality, Australian-made items from more than 150 different suppliers and artists. This is a sponsored post.

AUSTRALIAN Choice, a shop full of stories and many exquisite Australian handmade items, is so much more than a souvenir store, says owner Dan Butt.

With a view to selling only Australian-made, quality gifts and souvenirs, the family-owned business was established by Dan’s parents in 1989 in Civic, and has since expanded online.

The shop has been in the Canberra Centre for more than 30 years and about a year ago moved into a new location downstairs in the centre where it stocks more than 4000 products sourced from about 150 artists, designers and manufacturers Australia-wide.

Dan says these include small suppliers like a local uni student who makes “beautiful” scrunchies, to larger organisations like BNYM Indigenous Designs, who produces authentic, hand-made, hand-painted ceramics, jewellery, woodwork and paintings in Victoria.

“We want to showcase well-curated, Australian-made, unique gifts in our light and bright space,” he says.

“The quality we ensure, as well as our knowledge and understanding of the stock and suppliers’ stories, is a big part of why we’ve lasted 30 years.”

Dan says Canberra creatives are well represented at Australian Choice, too, and include Gatbi’s hand screen-printed textiles that feature iconic Canberran motifs on cushions, bags, purses and tea towels, and local botanical jewellery made by Bre at Eucalypse, who preserves vibrant native Australian plants in rings, pendants, earrings, bangles and trinket bowls.

“We have a diverse range and variety of items for sale, and what I really love is that each supplier has a story behind the items,” says Dan.

“Over the years, we’ve formed relationships with the people who create what we sell and we love being able to tell our customers their stories.”

Dan says the store supports indigenous artists and their art, such as Utopia Aboriginal art, which includes the artist’s story on each product, like wine coolers and coasters, and the Warlukurlangu Artists from Central Australia, an Aboriginal-owned, community-based art centre that creates “gloriously coloured” paintings, fine art prints, traditional craft and hand-painted animal sculptures, made in collaboration with the Alice Springs prison.

“Inmates make the animal shapes, then they’re sent to local indigenous communities to be painted by artists, and the proceeds go back to the communities,” Dan says.

“We make sure to go by the Indigenous Art Code, a system that preserves and promotes ethical trading in indigenous art, rather than selling mass-produced Aboriginal art.”

Dan says all the gifts in store are perfect for friends and family locally, but there’s also many small and light items that are safe to post or take overseas.

For example, Buttonworks Australia is a family business based at the Mornington Peninsula, creating lightweight wooden products from Australian timbers including Tasmanian oak, jarrah, blackwood and myrtle, featuring natural and urban icons, native flowers, birds and animals.

The shop also sells perishables such as spices and honey; clothes, including scarves, ties, socks, hats and Ugg boots; toys, books, stationery, bath and beauty items, as well as a large variety of jewellery. One of the jewellers, KI & Co from Kangaroo Island, makes leather and porcelain earrings, then there’s Bush Art, who makes raw gold gumleaf pieces and Christine Stewart who creates glass art.

There’s a vast range of homewares, too, from hand-stitched tablecloths, runners and napkins, to WRAPPA beeswax wraps, handmade in South Australia, and Eco Food Boards, which sources and crafts wooden boards in Byron Bay.

“People want to take or send something overseas to represent them and Australia in the best possible light,” Dan says.

“We work with businesses, government departments and embassies to provide gifts to take when travelling, or for their guests and visitors coming here.

“We’re constantly sourcing new ranges to add to what we’re already doing, and are more about handmade than mass-produced items.

“Souvenirs are part of the business too, but we stock so many special, individual pieces and celebrate the artist behind the work.

“Customers aren’t just buying the item itself, they’re getting and passing on the story behind it, too.”

Australian Choice, shop AG12, Ground Floor, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Civic. Call 6257 5315 or visit australianchoice.com.au

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