Nonagenarian Maree Parker received a standing ovation at the business awards for her contribution to the Tenterfield business community. Here is the citation read on the night...
Maree Parker is a born and bred Tenterfield girl. Her family lived at Sandy Flat and travelled by train whenever they came into town. She attended the Tenterfield High School, and a week before her 16th birthday she moved to town to begin work.
She boarded at a small house in Rouse Street now known as Henry's Cottage. A very nervous young girl began working at Virtue Ford on 15th August 1945. Her nerves were shortlived as that was the day World War II was declared finished, and all the staff were sent home to celebrate.
Maree worked for Virtues as a bookkeeper until the dealership was sold to the Dunn family. She continued there and when the dealership was sold some years later she resigned. She has many fond memories of her time at Ford and recalls that Harold Petrie and Hughie Sweeney bought the first two new ford cars in Tenterfield after the war.
Maree married Mark Parker in 1956. Their wedding day was the drought-breaker of the horrid 1956 drought. The heavens opened leaving some of her bridal party and her bridal bouquet stranded and unable to get to town. With quickly substituted attendants and a bunch of water lilies from her aunt's pond, Maree and Mark began their journey together as man and wife.
Maree's independence and strong will became evident at an early age. Just before the wedding Maree was informed by her brother-in-law-to-be that Parker women didn't work and she would need to give up her job! Well we all know how that went.
Maree learnt valuable financial lessons during the war coupon era and was a sought after bookkeeper. She was now working for Mr Rattan a general carrier and agent for the Egg Board in town. Maree loved to travel and as a sideline she kept books for Darry Struck Transport. She also had a talent for hairdressing and although she had no formal training she privately attended to many of the local ladies. The extra money Maree earned funded her holidays.
Mark's family ran an established menswear business, Parkers Menswear in Rouse Street which Mark later took over. This was the start of Maree's career in fashion retail. She helped in the shop and of course kept close rein on the books.
Ladies fashion, however, was her passion and she accepted a job with Anne and Tony Harris in their boutique, La Trend, in the early 70's. Here she gained experience in customer service and knowledge of the fashion world. She was a talented sewer and was invaluable as a seamstress, altering clothes for customers. She was a loyal employee at La Trend until 1985.
In 1985 Joan's Frock Salon became available for sale. Maree and her two daughters, Sheree and Michelle, decided to go into partnership and purchase it. Joan's was situated in the shop now occupied by Taylors Café. It was actually two shops and they shared the other side with a hairdresser.
On 6th November 1985 Sherelle Fashions was born. Sherelle is a combination of the two girls' names. The day before they opened was Melbourne Cup day and they held their first of many Melbourne Cup Fashion Parades before their doors were even opened.
Michelle wasn't living in Tenterfield and left the partnership a few years later. Maree and Sheree have continued to run Sherelle Fashions to this day - 34 years - which is a great achievement.
Those early retail days were hectic and they sold out within 10 days of opening and had to do a quick dash on the bus to Sydney to get more stock.
Maree was and still is passionate about bringing beautiful fashion and accessories to the ladies of Tenterfield. She continued her sewing and was renowned for her skill to put a little tuck here and there to give her clients the perfect fit.
The personal and honest service given by Sherelle Fashions soon gained momentum and they quickly built a loyal clientele. With more customers came the need for more space and stock.
Early in 1989 Phippards Pharmacy across the road was about to close its doors and the shop was offered to the girls. They accepted and moved into their current premises in April 1989. They continued to grow the business and about 15 years later a wall was removed and they extended into the little shop next door.
Maree has a vast knowledge of the fashion industry and her clients' tastes and she doesn't mind a chat. Social engagement is part of the Sherelle Fashions shopping experience. Everyone is welcome in the shop and the back room is a favourite meeting place. Here Maree is at her finest giving fashion advice, sharing stories, listening to people and most of all being a kind friend and confidant to many. Many a secret has been shared and locked in that room.
Over the years Maree has made many friends in the fashion industry and out of town clients have also become personal friends. Clients from all over Australia return regularly to Sherelle's to have a chat with Maree and to purchase the stores unique styles.
If they can't make it to town a simple phone call will see the perfect selection posted off to their home. This is the type of relationships that stand Sherelle Fasions out from their city counterparts. A recent out of town client said 'A trip to Tenterfield without visiting Sherelle Fashions is a wasted trip'.
Fashion Parades are a big part of the business and one of Maree's favourite times. Sherelle's have hosted hundreds of charity parades during its 34 years.
Pre-fashion parade takes up many many hours selecting and outfitting models. On the day, the dressing room is chaotic but not one model passes that door without inspection and minor adjustment from the parade director, Maree.
Maree turned 90 in August and her work ethic still puts most of us to shame. She is slowly taking a step back and enjoys a little sleep in most mornings now. However, she still believes you must get up, get dressed, put on some lippy and do what you love everyday.
Her love is Sherelle Fashions. Each day she still goes to work and puts in at least six hours. She continues to accompany Sheree on buying trips to Brisbane but has reluctantly given the Sydney trips away. Mind you Sheree says she still gets plenty of subtle suggestions before she leaves.
Maree keeps her mind active by checking the figures and invoices and pricing for most new arrivals. She continues to have great input into the business operations.
The longevity of the mother and daughter partnership is quite unusual and it is evident their shared passion for fashion and serving the community has kept them working peacefully together all this time.
Outside of Sherelle Fashions Maree is a passionate supporter of Tenterfield and Tenterfield tourism. Over the years she has worked with many community organisations including Far West Children, Quota, National Party, Presbyterian Church, Tourism and the business community.
In summary Maree is a stylish lady, a walking example of the industry which has been such a huge part of her life. She is strong-willed, a little stubborn at times but most of all a compassionate and caring member of the business community.
There is no doubt she is a Rouse Street icon.