In these turbulent and unsettling times, with a global pandemic stealing many traditional opportunities to connect with others, it’s vital to foster new ways to engage, support and create a sense of community. Right in the heart of downtown Tamworth, fifth generation local Sam Treloar has founded DPARTMNT, a professional co-working space not only designed for productivity, but purpose-built to encourage interaction and collaboration.

Sam Treloar opened the doors to DPARTMNT five months prior to the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, which saw a large percentage of our nation transformed into remote workers overnight, retreating with laptops to spare rooms and kitchen tables across the country.

Sam explains that although the timing for starting a new business was not ideal, it did validate his belief in the concept behind DPARTMNT.

“It worked perfectly as a COVID-safe sanctuary from the chaos of home-schooling teenagers and inconsiderate housemates,” he says.

“We now also have the realisation that you don’t have to live where you work, and so many people are leaving the big cities. They’re looking for greater flexibility, but still need a base for routine, for company and to escape the endless temptations and distractions of working from home. Honestly, I do believe the future is regional and the future is flexible.

“Working by yourself can be boring and lonely. There’s a better way – among others, with the benefits of interaction, where the culture is welcoming and inclusive, yet still autonomous. You can spend your time surrounded by other good people doing such an amazing variety of cool projects, share ideas, workshop problems… you can lift them, and they can lift you. It’s also a space to get stuff done on your terms – there are no expectations, no compulsory engagement. It’s human nature to need connection, to seek a community of likeminded people.”

Time spent with the Treloars

Many Tamworthians would be familiar with the Treloar name and their contribution to business and community life.

In 1889, Sam’s great-great-grandfather opened TJ Treloar & Co, a general merchant on the corner of Brisbane and Peel Streets (currently Adairs). The store (later known as ‘Treloars’), was a treasure-trove of the new and exotic, sourced from every corner of the globe for the citizens of the growing township. This became the trademark of regional, family-owned department stores – eclectic and diverse collections, providing a one-stop-shop for your every retail desire and practical need.

Over the following century, the Treloars retail experience adapted and evolved, including the 1970s redevelopment of the opposite corner (now Cotton On and DPARTMNT) into a ladies fashion department store. For almost 40 years, the ever-changing window display rivalled those seen in the big smoke, with many local ladies of a certain vintage still lamenting its closure… where on earth are they expected to source their hosiery and hats?

When Sam was young, his dad John (as Managing Director of Treloars), ran Mitre 10 (now Officeworks) and he has fond memories of wrapping lawnmowers and wheelbarrows with his little sisters Alex and Kate at Christmas time… when he wasn’t strutting his stuff as a model in the popular Treloar Fashion Parades! Every day after school, he would run down Brisbane Street to the Treloars milk bar (now Glamour Empire) for a deliciously icy choc-mint milkshake.

Sam left home as a teenager for further education, work and adventure, living in Sydney and Melbourne before moving back to Tamworth in 2011 with his wife Alison, who had also lived here for a time as a child. The couple now have three gorgeous children (Georgie, Tom and Audrey) and Sam’s two sisters have also returned home with their families – the sixth generation of Tamworth Treloars now planting roots in the same Kamilaroi soil.

“We loved our country town childhood and see so much value in regional communities. We wanted our kids to have that opportunity,” says Sam.

“I just feel such a strong connection to this place. Tamworth has an awesome story to tell with so much going for it and if you want to be involved, to contribute to the community, there are just so many options. The city has so much potential too and we wanted to be part of that.”

A new future

The lightbulb moment for DPARTMNT came when Sam was looking for a workspace to rent himself and was confronted by the limited options available. As fate would have it, he was managing the refurbishment of the CBA above Cotton On and took the opportunity to dream a new future for the once bustling department store admin offices. With the talented team from Formline, the result is a modern, crisp and professional aesthetic, filled with natural light and fitted with smart technology. You’ll also find tributes to its history, including two glorious ladies from a 1931 Treloars catalogue cover, originally the size of a postcard but now two-storey warm welcome on the threshold and 5c coupons dug from the archives and reborn as wallpaper.

DPARTMNT is home to a list of reputable commercial tenants, and the hot desks, which can be hired casually or permanently, are popular with both locals and out-of-towners. The meeting rooms (complete with video conferencing capability) are also available by the hour and are perfect for businesses wanting an offsite, quiet, private space or sole traders and start-ups seeking a professional base.

“We have such a fantastic variety of people using the space! Lately there’s been an increase in young remote workers who have moved to town and really enjoy the opportunity to interact and meet new people. We also have a number of motivated members who are developing new ventures and are making the most of the limited time available in their week to have a super productive day. They’re surrounded by others on the same journey, plus businesses that are already established and successful. This mix creates such a collaborative and dynamic environment – you can really see how the right combination of space and community can have such a positive impact.”

Sam admits to a deep nostalgia about the old Tamworth of his childhood and for the buildings that sustained his family for generations. As his forefathers before him, he has reinvented the business model and moulded the bricks and mortar to respond to the changing times and the needs of his community. Never happy just resting on his laurels, he shares that there are plans in the works to keep the concept fresh and relevant for today’s workforce. Like his great-great-grandfather, TJ Treloar, Sam is always on the lookout for the new, the innovative, a way to make life easier, gathering from far and wide to share with the hometown he holds so dear.

To book a desk, meeting room, or a tour and chat with Sam, visit:

{words: Amy Kellyphotography: Keo Design}