YOU might think a series of small businesses opening within a short time from of each meant a town was booming, but Newstead residents have seen it as a gradual and expected growth.
Blackbird Cafe owners Darren Trotter and Gemma Holden moved to Newstead two years ago with plans to operate a cafe out of an 1860s heritage building in the main street.
Last Sunday they celebrated six months of business, after red tape and challenges initially slowed their plans.
"It has been an antique store and was dormant for a couple years before we turned it into cafe," Gemma said. "All the fixtures inside are original and the exterior original with a heritage overlay on it. It took time, energy and effort given it was an old space."
Darren and Gemma met in Melbourne and moved to England (where Gemma comes from) for eight years before emigrating back out to Australia and arriving in Newstead.
"We ran a street food and catering business (in the UK)," Darren said. "Friends of ours moved back here and we heard about the opportunity (in Newstead) and came out two years ago and fell in love with it.
"The opportunity to have a cafe in an 1860s building with the heritage appealed to us. We also fell in love with the vibe around here - the sense of community is fantastic.
"It was a a bit of a mission to get (the cafe) up to standard but opening week was busy, which we were elated about."
Along with Blackbird, Eau Perfumery and Florist, Sarah Koschak Ceramics and The Mud Room all set up shop in Newstead within the last 12 months.
The town now boasts (among other things) two cafes, a pub, a butchers, a general store, post office, an arts hub and a milk bar.
Shop owners hope Newstead's upward trend can encourage more people driving through the small town to stop and look around.
"There's new businesses plus new owners at Country Store (the town's milk bar), for us it's a compliment if other people open up," Gemma said.
"The feedback we get is if there is somewhere else people can go (in town), it's more of a destination. We might never be a Daylesford or a Maldon but if we can stop people from driving through and get them to stop off, that's our main customer base other than locals and following we also have."
Research Darren and Gemma had to do before opening Blackbird showed there is passing traffic to make another cafe viable.
"We had to do a traffic report to prove enough there were enough car spaces to open a cafe," Darren said. "We found out 5500 cars come through Newstead on average each day.
"From Bendigo to Ballarat, Daylesford, Maryborough and Clunes, we know its a good thoroughfare and with one other cafe, the maths added up."
(We) came out two years ago and fell in love with it. The opportunity to have a cafe in an 1860s building with the heritage appealed to us. We also fell in love with the vibe around here - the sense of community is fantastic.Blackbird Cafe owner Darren Trotter
Dig Cafe owner Robyn Lynn grew up in Harcourt and has owned her business for nine years.
She said the opening of Blackbird hasn't affected her.
"Because of this road, everyone here has a huge passing trade," she said.
"We have had people stopping here for years. In some places, they don't stop. We're lucky that one day someone stops and then every time they come through, it's the place to stop."
Robyn said there has been a gradual growth in Newstead that has result in a number of new groups of people.
"It's a really interesting place with lots of different communities within the community," she said.
"Being here, you see a different side of everyone and because I have been lucky to be here for some time, I get to know little part so everybody as well."
Robyn has watched as more new families arrived in the town to help it prosper.
"It's changed a lot. But it has always been a gradual growth," she said. "You can just see it getting more and more solid as time goes on.
"The advantage we have here is, interestingly, a lot people work part time in Melbourne. That has increased, which has help house prices go up a bit.
"It's 15 minutes to train at Casltemaine and an hour and 15 minutes to Melbourne on the fast train, when it's running."
Butcher Shane McNabb has become well-known for his sausages after taking over the business when he finished his apprenticeship almost four years ago.
He is a born and bred Newstead local with his family going back five generations in the town.
From his little butcher shop on the main street, he too has sen thousands of cars and trucks pass through each day.
"The town's grown quite a bit," he said. "The cafes drive a lot of people through here. We have always had high traffic numbers from Ballarat and Bendigo on the highway.
"Lots of people head through with boats and caravans at this time of year.
"People have come and gone but there seems to be more people in street than what there used to be. People are happy to get out and about on weekends and there's a lot more around on Fridays and Saturdays because of the different things going in town."
Newstead will be bustling on Australia Day weekend when its annual music festival - Newstead Live - is held.
It will see musicians take over the town with sets and performances in some of the businesses as well as in the street.
Shane said it is a boost for everyone in town.
"It's pretty chockers," he said. "All sporting clubs do well, the footy club cater down the footy ground, CFA do well with their sausage sizzle, and the Men's Shed. Everyone gets a fair whack out of it."
With more people moving to town, or even just stopping for a break while on their way somewhere else, Shane said the new businesses were helping the town.
"The older ones down the pub might say they don't know anyone any more but I think if want to get out and know people, you can," he said.
"It does help with new businesses along the road. We have always had the (general store) and, until 12 months ago, had two pubs.
"More little business would help (keep growing the town). We don't have a service station in town. The nearest would be Castlemaine or Maldon and I know a couple people who have been caught out (with an empty fuel tank)."
Robyn, Darren and Gemma all agreed more businesses like a barber's, an antique store or book store, that encouraged people to stop would help Newstead's gradual growth.
"Lots of people come in looking for something like that," Robyn said. "Sarah, with her ceramics, has beautiful stuff in there.
"It would be nice to have another place like that where people can have a poke around. A lot people want to look around a town at the shops when they stop."