Several long-standing businesses are up for sale in the trendy suburb of Thirroul, some shop owners say heartbreak forced them to sell while others just want a break to retire.
Homewares haven Nest Emporium, the adjacent Soul Obsession shoe store, retail boutique Magnolia Collective, and Cucina cafe are all listed for sale (as of December 10), while cafe Revive 2515 was recently up for sale but is understood to have changed hands.
A "ridiculous" rent increase, bad reviews and caring for her elderly mother have put Elisabeth Dignam at the end of her tether, with the Soul Obsession owner calling it quits in February.
She understands she may not exude a warm, welcoming presence every day of the year in her shop on the corner of Lawrence Hargrave Drive and McCauley Street but wants customers to think twice when writing negative reviews.
"And like the rent, it's out of hand," Ms Dignam said. "Then wages are ridiculous and insurances ... and I just don't have it in me to move again."
Selling up will be bitter-sweet for the retailer of 22 years, especially as her children have grown up around shoe boxes and stylish clothes, the shop almost their "second home".
"It's just not even feasible anymore," she said. "I'm closing down at the end of February, I'll be finished. I've just got to [sell] all the stuff that's in there."
Next door at Nest Melinda Charlesworth is leaving on a more positive note.
The business owner feels "exhausted" after making it through the COVID years and is ready to transition to retirement, but will miss the loyalty of local customers and their smiling faces.
"The business is 20-years-old and I've had it for seven ... it's time for someone with fresh energy to take the business forward," she told the Mercury.
"Nest was the original homewares shop in Wollongong ... that's why I wanted to sell it rather than just walk away when I was retiring. The brand is bigger than just the owner."
Justin Bunt from MMJ Business Sales was confident to have a new owner giving the Revive 2515 cafe a refresh in the new year. Despite rising property prices in the popular seaside suburb, he believed it was still highly sought for people to do business.
"'High rents' are a case-by-case basis and depends on the landlord and whether the business is the right fit for the space," he said.
"[Thirroul] has got that great double strength of a really supportive local community plus a lot of the day-trippers from Sydney that come down.
"Even when it's a quieter month it's still busy, like, it [trade] doesn't fall away like other tourist towns can do. But it still does go crazy at holiday time, so you get the best of both worlds."
Meantime, Enzo Conti of Conti Business Brokers said the shop-fronts he manages were never vacant for long once an operator decided to leave - such as Jin's Place moving into where the defunct Busters Tavern/Papis Burgers once was, and the owners of Opus coffee set to open in the old Noel and Gladys site.