Mathew shuddered and let out a squawk. “Not rice! I still can’t do the rice thing. Maggots! It’s a long story.”
Terry Magill and Mathew Consiglio (above) were heading back to the east with a Nowra venture in mind when we were exploring the south of Western Australia.
We bumped into them first at Munglinup and a couple of days later backed Isabel up beside them at postcard-pretty Lucky Bay. We liked their company and we liked their style on two counts: first they had a bit of get-up-and-go – combining a solid work ethic and entrepreneurial ideas – and second they served a salubrious spread to pick at with wine as the sun set.
Joe Hockey would be proud of these two Australians. No age of entitlement nonsense here. Terry had begun work as trolley boy at Woolworths and worked his way through the ranks to third in charge of a supermarket. Most of his time was spent managing bottle shops at various stores,
Mat was also at Woolies for four years, two as customer service manager and two in the office doing public liability.
“We got sick of the same routine every week,” said Terry. So they hopped on a plane to Perth, bought a vehicle and drove 1000km north to Minilya, a roadhouse managed by Terry’s sister Danielle.
At Minilya they learned the takeaway ropes and much more: remote roadhouses are little communities with fuel, accommodation, camping, modest restaurants and shops with basic supplies and the ubitiquous over-priced T-shirts.
For 18 months the couple (they’re engaged) worked, explored nearby Ningaloo Reef, helped ill-equipped or troubled travellers and saved enough for a grubstake for their own business.
“We loved it up there,” said Terry, “but we had other things we wanted do.”
They bought a van and took a leisurely long road back to NSW, exploring Oz in company with the Grey Nomads and young foreign backpackers they had served at Minilya. They were fishing along the way with a spectacular lack of success and collecting elements as souvenirs – white sand here, red soil there, a rock here.
We joined them for sundowners each night. I plonked down a rudimentary plate of brie and biscuits; they presented stylishly displayed hors d’oeuvres and details of their plans to buy the Hillview Corner Store at Nowra.
Takeaways are a big part of the Four Square business and the boys had been giving it a lot of thought.
“We want a signature dish,” said Mat. “Probably something healthy to balance the fish and chips. Any ideas?”
I remembered the delectable sushi made by the French Hot Bread bakery in Maryborough. Morsels of crumbed chicken, avocado and tomato were stuffed in the centre of the rolls.
Mat’s rejection of the suggestion verged on paranoia. “Not rice!” He was coaxed to explain, with groans and shudders, his scarring experience in his younger days when he had to clean maggots from a large container. Revolted, he summoned his courage and still reeling walking back to the house when his mischievous sister threw a container of rice – maggots! – over him.
I suggested he might need counselling for his rice phobia but he said he’s working on it.
The boys headed across the Nullarbor and we headed back up north, calling into Minilya to meet Danielle and discuss briefly Mat’s rice problem. He had a bit of therapy handling some rice at Minilya, she smiled, and was much better by the time the boys left.
Terry and Mat are now working furiously at the Hillview Corner Store venture, revamping the store and upgrading the menu.
They just had their busiest day, had to rush out for more supplies and are compromising on the signature dish because it looks like it is sorting itself out: hamburgers filled with superb salad.
“Customers are telling us our hamburgers are like the old traditional ones and taste really fresh,” says Terry. “Apparently our plain burger is like a burger-with-the-lot at other places.”
Anyone knowing anyone travelling near Nowra might want to check in with the Hillview Corner Store in St Ann's Street and try the burgers. We’re going in the wrong direction right now but we will get there one day.