My Itinerary

In good company: Brisbane St News and Lotto

In good company is a series of interviews undertaken with local small business owners and their employees to help the public learn more about their favourite Launnie businesses, how they came to be and what drives them. They're usually posted to our social media first, and those posts will be linked at the end of the interview so that you can share them if you'd like to. So settle in and scroll on to hear tales from beyond the counter, and maybe even discover somewhere completely new... Wherever these interviews lead you, we're sure you'll find yourself In good company.

- The Launceston Central team

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Brisbane St News and Lotto

Beneath the iconic art deco façade of Launceston’s iconic Holyman House building, a bustling newsagency thrives amid changing times.

Brisbane Street News and Lotto, with dedicated owners Garry and Donna Matthews at the helm, provides a rich shopping experience for regulars and passers-by. This beloved small business is best known for three things: its busy lotto counter, extraordinary selection of magazines, and welcoming staff.

“We’re all very friendly, personal sort of people,” says Garry of his team, comprising himself, Donna, and two staff members, Jacob and Angela.

The offerings at Brisbane Street News and Lotto haven’t changed a lot since Garry took it on 21 years ago – alongside vast shelves of the latest magazines, customers can still pick up the morning paper and peruse a great selection of greeting cards, stationery, gifts, souvenirs, and snacks.

“The only thing that’s evolved,” Garry says, “is that our lotto sales have grown while our newspaper sales are less.

“Our prime mover is certainly lotto – that’s where our strength is these days. Initially, the strength was more in papers and magazines, but they have slowed down a bit with the changed that have occurred in print.”

Even so, the shop remains a go-to for many locals who enjoy a tactile reading experience.

“Magazines are still very much a strong part of our business,” Garry says. “There are people who say that magazines have fallen away, but they haven’t for us. Because we offer a wide variety, we still do very well out of them.

“We often get comments from people who can’t believe how many magazines we have and how well they’re presented.”

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Retail excellence comes naturally to Garry, who was involved in his parents’ business – the OG Bizy Bee on Invermay Road – from a young age. Another longstanding local gem, the Bizy Bee began as a general store, stocking a variety of products such as fishing and shooting equipment, as well as sports gear.

“We sold the Bizy Bee in 1972 and evolved into Matthews Sports Store, which was located right next door,” Garry says. “We sold that in 1989. Since then, I’ve had a variety of jobs.”

Before taking on Brisbane Street News and Lotto, Garry spent almost 10 years in real estate and also worked as a men’s clothing wholesaler for a short period. It was during his time in wholesale trade, while operating from a premises above Neil Pitt’s, that he heard about the opportunity to purchase the newsagency.

“I heard that the business was for sale through my contacts with Harrison Humphreys – that’s where I used to work,” Garry says. “I felt I wanted a change. I’d grown up in retail, and it was calling back to me again.”

Today, Brisbane Street News and Lotto maintains a loyal customer base spanning all ages, from tradies who come in during the early hours, to professionals who work at nearby firms and banks, to mums, and older residents.

“Really, we get customers right across the board,” Garry says. “Part of that is because we do try to make people feel as if they’re dealing with a friend. That’s what it’s all about, I suppose, to survive in this business – you’ve got to be able to make yourself approachable and give people really good service.”

Some regulars, Garry says, have been coming in from day dot.

“Some [of them] are ageing, but others would come along with their parents, so that connection has continued,” he says. “Now we’ve even got grandchildren coming in – the business has evolved that much.”

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Garry says it’s the social aspect of retail that he values most.

“People ask me why I’m not retired,” he says. “I really enjoy the social contact and the friendships that have occurred through being here – it’s simple as that.”

In a rapidly evolving digital age, the personal touch offered at Brisbane Street News and Lotto has helped the business succeed.

“There is certainly a bigger push for online sales,” Garry says, “and to me that represents a change in how people communicate with each other.

“People are being a little more isolated and are realising that we do need good social contact, I think. Thankfully, there are a lot of very good shops that have cropped up around town that represent the same sort of thing I believe that we offer – people can go in and feel like they’re dealing with friends and like they’re getting good service.

“In the long-term, I think people want that.”

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Apart from an 18-month stint in Victoria, Garry has always lived and worked in his hometown, where the laidback lifestyle allows for more moments of social connection.

“Launceston has always been an easy town to live in – it’s always been a friendly town,” he says. “We’re not under the pressure that big cities put you under. In that respect, it hasn’t changed a lot. We’ve still got the ease of moving around, and I simply enjoy the people who live here.”

The future of Launceston looks bright for this business owner, who delights in seeing new shops and cafes emerge in amongst our longer-running establishments.

“When you’ve lived here as long as I have, you want to see the city continue to evolve,” Garry says. “I like the way the council are trying to promote the feel of community within the city, with the way they’ve redeveloped the [Brisbane Street] Mall and the Quadrant Mall, for example.

“It’s been fantastic what’s happened with the Tea Shop on George Street. Neil Pitts and Routleys that’ve been around forever, and Minimax next door … we’ve got a lot of good retail establishments locally that I like to patronise.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in the city, and it’s still evolving, which is good to see. I hope we can keep building on that.”

Whether you want to get your hands on the latest edition of your fave publication, try your luck at hitting the jackpot, or simply swing by and say hi, the Brisbane Street News and Lotto team looks forward to seeing you.

📍 Find Brisbane Street News and Lotto at 52 Brisbane Street, Launceston.

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