WHILE the return to normal may have been a distant goal for many businesses in the district at times in 2020, local traders have shown determination to weather the unprecedented times and continue to put on a brave face and work hard to make the most of a difficult situation.
Brian Gregg, managing director of Gregg and Sons Steel said initially the NSW-Victorian border closure had some impact on his business, but that had since eased and sales overall had risen 30 per cent in the last few months.
“Business has been good – it’s still ticking along,” Brian said.
“We’re very fortunate being so far from Melbourne and Mildura is a vibrant place − just look at the amount of housing construction that is going on is phenomenal – that’s a true indication of how your economy is going because once you are in the housing industry it envelopes a whole lot of different industries − the concrete and steel works, timber, carpets, electrical goods – it certainly covers a lot of sectors.
“Fortunately we haven’t had to put our staff onto JobKeeper, in actual fact, we’ve been looking for more staff.”
Yigal’s Kitchen has focused its business on takeaway food and recently introduced a new ‘fresh daily’ three-course menu which starts from only $14.50 ($12.50 for seniors).
“Business has been good and we are enjoying supporting the community that supports us,” Yigal said. “We’re providing fresh healthy food on a daily basis − if it tastes good and it’s fresh and you do the right thing, people will keep coming back.
“It’s tough for a lot of businesses and that’s why we need to support each other.” As optimistic as he is, Yigal cautions that a third wave of the virus is always a risk.
“They opened everything up overseas and that’s what happened and they are going through a third wave now,” he said.
“I hope I’m wrong and things are okay here in Australia. We have the best country in the world and people in general follow the advice, but it is a virus and you can’t stop it.”
Gwen Earle proprietor of Mai’s Shoes and Accessories has seen some difficult times for retailers during her more than 40 years of trading in Langtree Avenue, but nothing like what she has had to endure in recent months.
“We closed the store on March 28 at the tail end of summer and remained closed throughout April and May, and we re-opened in the midst of winter, but we effectively lost two months of winter trading,” she said.
Gwen said that the absence of the usual Melbourne Cup related events has also impacted her business.
“With no Melbourne Cup events and no local race meetings we’ve missed out on the sale of hats and other accessories,” she said.
“That was a big part of sales at this time of the year and there aren’t any weddings either, which was a big part of our business too. So I haven’t bought the usual stock of hats.
“Despite that, it has been quite good and when the weather’s nice and people are out and about, business is better.
“I have noticed an increase in the number of regional visitors coming to town which is a positive sign. You have to be positive − no good being negative, people pick up those vibes.”
Matt Kelly from Lime Therapy said that they haven’t had the usual volume of sport-related treatments due to fixture cancellations in the district.
“We’ve been reasonably busy even without the usual sport happening,” Matt said.
“We are looking at employing some extra staff as things pick up. Like everyone we are looking forward to things improving and you just need to be patient and deal with what has been dealt to us and stay positive.”
The Sandbar’s Malcolm Kalms said since the re-opening of pubs business had been booming.
“It’s been flat out. Our biggest issue is the weather,” he said. “I’d rather it rain this year however, because last year we had two dust storms a week so I’d rather the rain.
“We’ve been averaging 20 kegs of beer a week, with the drinkers coming in droves. We’ve been flat out taking bookings and we’re booked out most weekend nights in advance.”