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Ask a Local / Jane Crowley

Emporium owner Jane Crowley started working with her father, Athol Salter, in his antique and vintage shed when she was six. Today the pair run one of the Highlands’ best loved iconic shopping hotspots, Dirty Janes Bowral. When Jane’s not helping shoppers find that fabulous piece, she is happiest with husband Bob and their three children, or travelling the world to uncover quality treasures for us to behold and buy.

What do you love about the Southern Highlands?This is where my family are! Simple as that. This is where I live and love.

What’s your favourite place to go in the area and why?Well, apart from this great vintage market I know… we have some of the most beautiful unspoilt country roads, so I often take detours to enjoy the scenery.

What’s your best advice for people moving to the Highlands? Become involved in one of the organisations. Like SHYAC [Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council] if you’re parents of thespian children, or Southern Highlands Symphony Orchestra concert to hear beautiful music.

Where do you live? In a lovely old rambling house in Bowral that we’ve called ‘Gaffer’s Rest’. Bob, my husband, is a bit of a LOTR (Lord of the Rings) fan.

Dirty Jane, the namesake of your business, was an Irish waif transported to Australia for theft who later founded a successful emporium. Any relation? Ha ha, no relation. Although I have been called every derivative of ‘dirty’ in the thesaurus!

How long have you and Athol been in business together? Let’s just say I was barely tall enough to reach the kitchen bench when I started by making the sandwiches for Dad as he headed off to auctions.

Some may be horrified at the idea of working with their dad for so long. What’s your secret? We are both very glass half full people, and we never lay blame. This flows onto our amazing team at Dirty Janes. Be positive and supportive, and anything is possible.

What do you love about what you do? I love the creativity of the industry. To buy something run down and restore it gives such a sense of satisfaction. We buy all over the world, in Europe, the UK and North America, and what I never stop looking for is quality. The carving in a table leg, the rustic appeal of a picture frame, it all needs to show quality craftsmanship.

What’s key to being a hugely successful retailer? I’ll tell you when we get there. Dad always taught me to look for the unusual rather than the usual. It’s what I stick to when I’m buying.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? I suppose the advice that I was given years ago rings true on an almost daily basis: ‘Work with what you’ve got.’

What’s the biggest challenge facing the Southern Highlands? Retaining our towns’ identities. In the eagerness to cater to the demands of businesses and residents, we must foster an individuality that sets each town apart. Oh, and if our local councillors are reading this, Bowral township could do with a few more parking spaces.

Finally, if you weren’t buying for and running Dirty Janes with Athol, what would you be doing? Athol and I used to always have so much fun on buying trips together, egging each other on. Today Dirty Janes is too busy for us both to go together, but one day I’d love to book first class tickets and take Dad back to London to go to an auction at Christie’s!

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