There is an old Japanese saying that, loosely translated, means “apple blossoms are beautiful, but rice dumplings are better.” This proverb eloquently encapsulates the ethos behind Provider Store, a Sydney-based, Japanese-inspired homewares shop founded in 2014 by Tara Bennett. The timeless, slow-made products that adorn the shelves of the Surry Hills store are no doubt beautiful, but the true beauty is to be found in what they represent, the feelings they evoke and the community at their heart.
Like most great journeys, Tara’s path from an e-commerce degree to founding a Japanese homewares store took unexpected twists and turns. “I first went to Japan on a holiday, escaping a job I knew wasn’t my passion,” explains Tara. “When I got there, I noticed the masterful way Japanese culture celebrates ancient crafts through an inherent love of the handmade.” It was a holiday of discovery that would alter the course of her life forever. Returning to Australia with no savings, Tara quit her job and set about turning her new-found passion into a profession. “Being quite crafty by nature, I started designing [and] making things like linen pillows, concrete stools and even candles,” she continues. “From there, I began to build up the idea of Provider Store, developing a product offering that aimed to slow down our focus on what’s important, celebrating sustainably sourced and slow-made items.”
“From there, I began to build up the idea of Provider Store, developing a product offering that aimed to slow down our focus on what’s important, celebrating sustainably sourced and slow-made items.”
What started as a simple website has grown into the small Surry Hills store, evolving over time and developing into the intriguing place that Provider is today. “It started as two shelves and a small workshop where I could make candles,” says Tara. “While the retail industry has no doubt changed, the stories that are told upon these shelves have become no less important. We have recently renovated, with the additional space allowing me to teach candle workshops within the store, but it still feels like the hidden hole in the wall it first started life as – it’s quite special.”
Numerous trips to Japan have eventuated, leading Tara to become even more enamoured with Japanese culture and the small moments of beauty that make the country so unique. “I love hiring a bike, riding around Japan’s cities and stumbling across ancient antique shops, workshops and galleries within which some truly amazing items can be found,” says Tara. “I wondered why we were lacking this type of retail experience in Australia, a special moment of discovery that allows you to learn about the makers, and it was something I wanted to develop for my business. It was with this goal in mind that Provider continued to take shape.”
Whether handmade in the Sydney studio or sourced directly from Japan, each slow-made, sustainably produced piece that makes up Provider Store generates a narrative inspired by travel, art and connection, while celebrating the stories of the makers and the journey that brings each design to life. “Through our Surry Hills store, I wanted to create something akin to a gallery gift shop, a considered space where people can gather, browse and discover without the usual pressures associated with a modern retail experience,” states Tara. “By offering a unique retail experience, I feel we have been able to create a community around Provider that has grown as the shop has grown over the years. It is a community that extends across our physical and online store, and I will always be thankful to all the people that have supported Provider over the past seven years.”
In a continually fast-paced world, with the nature of retail and the design traits society values ever-changing, it is comforting to know places like Provider Store and people like Tara still exist. The slow-made and sustainable homewares that can be found in Provider Store are testament to a rewarding, unexpected journey and a belief that true joy can be found through the stories of the people behind the products.