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With its 40th birthday celebrations commencing this weekend, we take a look back at the history of the iconic shopping centre in the heart of Belco with long-time resident Barbara Craft.
The Craft family moved to Macquarie in 1968, back when the highway only extended to Aranda before turning into a dirt road. Barbara had arrived in Canberra eight years earlier, before Lake Burley Griffin even existed. She met her future husband Michael soon after, and they ended up in a freshly built house with their young family.
While Michael headed up the Belconnen police station, Barbara spent 12 years out of the workforce raising her three kids. But with the opening of the brand-new Belconnen Mall in 1978, Barbara got a part-time job at a French patisserie called Le Croissant.
It was the beginning of a long association for the Craft family, with Barbara and their sons Matt, Tim and Adrian spending countless days there over the next four decades.
“Where I worked was the most magnificent French patisserie, downstairs near where Kmart is,” explains Barbara. “We all had a white uniform with blue hats on and blue aprons.
“I can always remember that we first opened at Easter time because the bakers cooked so many hot cross buns and we were all lying back on the flour bags at the end of the day because we’d worked so hard.”
“Mum used to bring all the leftovers home,” adds Matt Craft, now Officer In Charge at Belconnen Police Station himself. “We’d have cakes and pies and laminations and donuts, it was the best.”
Matt also remembers the grand opening of Belconnen Mall for the food: Streets Hearts ice creams and huge crowds stand out in his memory as an eight-year-old.
Le Croissant was a local mainstay for many years, famous for fresh bread and pastries.
“People would be queued up there on a Saturday morning for the bread,” says Barbara. “The food was to die for, even by today’s standards. They were a little bit dearer, but reasonable prices. Their croissants were absolutely beautiful, made with nothing but the best.”
Over the subsequent years, Barbara worked at various outlets in the Mall, including the East India Company, Decadence and St George Bank.
“It was a great happy place back in those early days,” she says. “They used to have big Christmas parties. Everyone got along really well and helped each other. We bought our Parker lounge suite at the centre, which I’ve still got to this day.”
Unsurprisingly, her sons also had their favourite places at the Mall.
“We spent tons of time here when we were younger, we got our family photos with Santa every year,” says Matt.
“As we got older we used to ride our bikes down after school. We’d spend our pocket money at the record shop and Puffin Donut was definitely one of our favourites,” agrees Tim, who works alongside his brother at Belconnen Police Station.
Matt and his brothers remember hiring their Year Ten and Twelve Formal suits at the Mall, and now he brings his own sons in for haircuts and sports gear.
Barbara remains a loyal customer at Woolworths for groceries and Myer for fashion and makeup, despite having a supermarket closer to home.
“I know the aisles of Woolies inside out and I still come back even after all these years to do the shopping. You’re a creature of habit when you get to this age!
“A lot of these beautiful shops are too trendy for my generation but that doesn’t stop me from having a look. The Mall was a wonderful place and still is.”
From 22 to 27 October you can see how Westfield Belconnen was built, through to the vibrant ‘80s and ‘90s all the way to present day with a historical display at the Target Mezzanine, located halfway down the Aldi travelators.
The celebrations will finish with a bang with the 40th Birthday Bash on 27 October including free popcorn and fairy floss, free entertainment and an epic photo wall so you can capture the moment and get the chance to win a $400 Westfield gift card.
What: Westfield Belconnen 40th Birthday Bash
Where: Level Three, outside T2
When: Saturday 27 October
How much: Free
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