THE mystery developer behind the demolition of the One Mile Hotel has purchased the Town and Country Centre site and the adjoining vacant block.
The move marks the end of an era, with the iconic family-owned business closing after 50 years of trading in Ipswich.
Norman and Frances Walker set up the business in 1966 at the corner of Brisbane and Clay streets as Ipswich Vet and Farm Supplies.
After flooding problems with the site, Mr Walker purchased the current site at 353 Brisbane Street, West Ipswich. The Walker family also owns the vacant block between the former One Mile Hotel site and Town and Country - previously a garden centre - and the easement which runs behind the former hotel site on to Hooper St.
Two generations of the Walker family have run Town and Country, with sons David and Michael and daughter Julie joining the business.
Julie Walker yesterday confirmed the family was in the final stages of selling the two blocks, a 7500sqm site, to a developer. Mrs Walker would not name the developer and said they had not been advised of future plans for the site.
"The people buying it have not told us what they are doing," she said.
Mrs Walker said the Town and Country Tea Rooms would remain open and hoped to be part of plans for the site. The dance studio will remain in the building to the back of Town and Country.
"When Dad started, there was a vet in partnership with him. All of Dad's customers were farmers," she said.
"All of the surrounding area was dairy, pigs and beef - and they've all gone.
"That is the big change in 50 years; the farms have gone.
"Customers now tend to be people who live on a bit of acreage. They might be hobby farmers, have a few head of cattle or have a couple of horses."
Mrs Walker said the opportunity to sell presented itself when developers looked at the site early this year.
"As is the case with so many family businesses, the third generation isn't interested.
"When they offered to buy, it was an opportunity to retire."
Town and Country employed up to 15 staff in its heyday but business declined in recent years.
"In the last four years, the retail sector has been affected pretty badly. Most retailers we have spoken to have said how tough it has been. Most of our suppliers have said how tough it has been. We couldn't envisage retail turning around," Mrs Walker said.
Town and Country is having a sale before closing late January.
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