The best bits of Queanbeyan and surrounds.

Life has never been the same since Jewel Food Barn closed in 1998

Life has never been the same since Jewel Food Barn closed in 1998

Before Aldi landed in Australia, the place to get your discounted food items in Queanbeyan was the iconic grocery store Jewel Food Barn.

The store stood almost exactly where Aldi stands now, had a large pitched roof and a massive foyer area that held a fruit and vegetable store and a butcher.


The Jewel Food Barn stores operated from 1960 to 1998 in Australia, however, the Queanbeyan store didn’t open until the 1980s. It was an integral part of the culture for all lower and middle class families that grew up in that era.

Q! News recently stumbled across a Facebook group called “Jewel Food Barn, Ex Workers” and believe us when we tell you – it is the best thing on the internet. The group shares nostalgic memories through photos and stories about the stores, such as special social events and even sporting comps between supermarket staff. Sounded like such an elite place to work and gives us total Netflix Superstore vibes. 

We reckon Jewels was way before its time with express checkout lanes and its no-frills, warehouse style set-up, so we’ve come up with our five top memories from the Queanbeyan Jewel Food Barn store.

1. The cool room.

Sure, they have might have multiple cool rooms now at Costco, but before Jewels entered the chat, a Queanbeyan kid like me had never had such an immersive Antarctic experience. Housing the dairy goods of the time, Meadow Lea margarine and Petit Miams, my siblings and I would hang out there just to cool off in the hot summers, and in the winter we would fight over whose turn it was to go in. In the spring and autumn months, we’d just run in and out of there like idiots … for fun obviously. 

This isn’t the cool room, this is just one of their freezers.

2. Mini trolleys.

Another ‘first’ for its time. Never in my sheltered Queanbeyan life had I ever seen tiny replica trolleys before.


My 10-year-old self was way too big for such childish things but no way was I letting my little brothers have all the fun. Before we even got out of the Kingswood we’d start with: “Dad can we get our own trolley?!” over and over (yes our Dad took us grocery shopping, what a progressive 80s dad).

Usually the answer was no, because my brother, who shall not be named (*cough*- QPRC Mayor Kenrick Winchester), was an absolute pest of a child who would drive up the back of your heels and and crash into all the shelves. Sadly this didn’t stop me and my brother from running with the adult trolley and jumping up onto it, cruising through the aisles like Peter Brock.

This ended in disaster one time when the almost empty trolley buckled under my 35kg frame and flipped up on top of me. That put an end to our trolley antics for a while. I was just glad Mum wasn’t there to see it because, you know, she would have given me something to cry about. 

Jewels grocery bags – they were free!

3. The junk area at the front of the store.

Opposite the checkouts, where *gasp* real people actually served you wearing snazzy blue aprons, there was a large open abyss of junk that was on sale or was just so miscellaneous they didn’t know where to put it. Perfect product placement by the Jewels upper management I must say.

My brother and I waited until Dad was in line and we would go over and touch all of the things. We’d inevitably try to sneak a rubber bouncy ball or water colour set into the trolley while Dad was chatting away to the checkout the girl about all the mad deals he had gotten that week. Sadly we rarely got anything past Scrooge McWinchester. 

The then modern checkouts, featuring overhead cigarette cabinets for easy access.

4.  The infamous ‘No Name’ brand.

The Jewels stores had their own brand version of just about everything. It was cheap as chips and obviously imitated the more popular brands. It was called “No Name”.

You could get all your staples in the No Name brand and believe me, in the Winchester house, we did. This then became a catchphrase in our home for anything that was thought to be sub-par or fake or of lower quality. Let me give you some examples: “Kenrick your haircut is No Name”, “Kenrick your shoes are No Name”, “Kenrick that WWF wrestler is No Name” … You get the drift. It also became popular when my aunty had a baby in 1989 and didn’t name her for a few good weeks. She immediately became known as “No Name” or “Jewel”.  

No Name fruit drinks. Dad would never let us get these.

5. Our favourite Jewels products.

In the toiletries aisle ‘Bold Hold’ gel spray was a must for those spiky and slicked backed looks. Macleans triple stripe toothpaste, Pears soap bars and powdery ‘Mum’ roll on deodorant kept us smelling fresh. 

Salon Selectives shampoo was for the women and Pert 2-in-1 shampoo for the men. Biscuits were a staple item when you had four kids, of course we got stitched up with the healthier options like Spicy Fruit Rolls (vom), Limits Diet biscuits for Mum (wasn’t every 80s mum on Jenny Craig?) and Mint Slice for the visitors.

School food was not so subtly hidden by Mum in the medicine cupboard, to try to keep us from eating it all in one day. It included Space Food Sticks, Milky Ways, Wagon Wheels and Twisties – there was no such thing as a ‘fruit break’ in the 80’s.

Our children will never know how good Space Food Sticks tasted.

For dessert we all shared a 4L tub of neapolitan ice cream in cones. Chocolate and strawberry were always eaten first and then we’d be forced to eat the vanilla with Milo on top. Thank God we lived around the corner from Nic’s Convenience Store and could scab up enough loose change for some mixed cobbers or a Bubble‘o’Bill when the Jewel’s food ran out. 

Wait, my Dad just told me he still has a green outdoor plastic table and chairs that he bought at Jewels. Oh my Lawd!  We used it last Christmas … so I guess the quality wasn’t so sub-par at Jewel Food Barn!

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About the Author: Holly Winchester

Part Jennifer Coolidge, part Jennifer Garner (gaudy and geeky), Holly idolises Dolly Parton and Princess Di and loves NRL. When she's not creating killer content, you’ll find Holly at the Maccas drive thru getting her chai latte fix or buying 1990s memorabilia for the walls of her Googong home. Specialist subject: the Woolies carpark.