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Edition 231 – Resilience

Last week, my wife and I took the opportunity to spend a week away on the far South Coast of New South Wales. This is the part of Australia that through the Christmas/New Year period, was devastated by horrendous bushfires that destroyed vast amounts of bushland and cruelled local businesses at their busiest time of the year.

There were many things that struck me last week, but none moreso than the resilience of many of the small and family businesses that we frequented.

Like the award winning winery restaurant, located 10km south of Bermagui. We booked online a few weeks in advance and already I was impressed when the confirmation reply came back stating “many thanks for your support”. Sunday lunch, looking out over the vineyard, bathing in the sun’s warmth on a cool winter’s day, was exceptional. The food was as good as we have eaten in any top restaurant and their own wine, which accompanied lunch, was outstanding. This was a business that was putting on a great show, not long after they’d recovered from a COVID induced lockdown that had taken away their restaurant and events business. The ramp up they’d hoped for after escaping the bushfires simply couldn’t happen as their business was impacted like everyone else’s.

On settling the bill, the barman turned out to be the new owner – he and his wife taking over the business from his wife’s parents. When I asked him how business was fairing, his wish was only for rain. It’s been a dry few years where they are based and without town water to stock their dams, what falls out of the sky is the only thing that nourishes their vines. So low is water that vines are drip fed once every three weeks. To compensate for the lower wine production, there were limits placed on cellar door purchases – a smart way to manage their stocks until the drought clears.

At an organics business in Bermagui, coffees were being served after the normal cut off time, to keep the patrons happy. This business was doing everything in a COVID Safe way – sanitiser on entry; single use scoops for procuring your sundried pears or organic licorice; a sign in register and, when one too many tourists entered the store, a calm but firm instruction for the new entrants to remain outside until someone had left the store. Imagine what it must be like for the owner of this family business, that has endured months of low and no trade, to ask people to leave her store so that she puts no one at risk?

In Tilba Tilba, the owner of the tea rooms not only made time for everyone that was in her store, but surely compensated for months of little trade by baking the largest scones I have ever seen. Her gregarious personality added to the experience of feeling appreciated for making the time to visit her small business and, should you so desire, wander through her shop that is stocked to the rafters with mugs, cups, teapots and a wonderful assortment of teas. Here was a people person doing what they do best – entertaining people.

Each of these business owners were the epitome of resilience. Each of them was putting on a show so that, just maybe, you’ll want to come back again. They were professional, warm and welcoming in equal measures. There was no complaining, no grumpy faces, no looks of “what if”. These are the small and family business owners who surely have endured the most difficult of years to date, yet are the lifeblood of their local economy.

We’ve all had to adapt in this new world, but what have you observed about other businesses that has inspired you during these times?