In October of 1994, Phil and Laurel Moore gave up their day jobs to establish themselves as proprietors of Yamba Spar Express (then a general store, now Yamba Surf) on the corner of Yamba and High streets. Two and a half years later, Phil’s sister, Catherine Suttor, and her husband, Angus, joined them.
Last week they called it a day, announcing the end of their tenure on the store’s Facebook page.
“It is with mixed emotions that today we woke up and, for the first time in 21 years, we didn’t own a supermarket in Yamba,” they wrote. “It has been an amazing journey for both our families. Thank you to the Yamba community for all your support; we will continue to be active members of the Yamba community.
“We would like to wish Karl and Michelle Donald all the best as the new owners of SPAR Yamba.”
Within hours, the ‘Yamba community’ and others expressed their love with multiple shares and hundreds of likes and comments.
The Independent caught up with Phil and Angus.
“That was our first venture into small business, Laurel being a nurse and me a school teacher,” says Phil.
“Catherine and Angus [who was a farm manager] moved up here in 1997 and joined the partnership – it was the four of us there for a little while, then the girls went back to nursing. Angus and I continued.”
By December 2003 they had converted the mechanical workshop and service station on the corner of Yamba and Wooli streets into the Spar Express store.
“[Now] we feel like we’re going through a divorce,” says Angus.
“We’re closer than most married couples,” Phil retorts.
Each family’s children – Angus and Catherine have three, Phil and Laurel two – have worked in the store over the years.
“I think it benefitted the kids more than it benefitted us,” says Angus. “It gave them a grounding and understanding of people.”
“People skills and the value of working and earning money for themselves and just giving them a sense of responsibility from a fairly young age,” Phil says.
“The [store’s] success story, really,” says Angus, “is the number of local Yamba youths who have worked here – well over 100 kids that have all come through, [gaining] experience working in a small family business in Yamba.
“They’re not David Warner standing there saying his first job was Coles. They are standing there saying their first job was in a small, privately owned family business – independent and proudly so.”
When asked if there had been any ‘disasters’ over the years, Phil remembers when a “brown snake came into the store inadvertently, in a box of bananas”.
“It was loose in the shop, unbeknownst to the customers. It was spotted by a member of staff, who nearly jumped through the ceiling as she saw it coming down the fourth isle.
“We watched it on the CCTV a million times … it was very humorous.”
Angus: “It was eventually tracked down by a WIRES person.”
Phil: “No, the WIRES person couldn’t find it.”
Angus: “Oh that’s right, we eventually trapped it.”
When told of the response they had received on Facebook during the 12 hours leading up to their interview, Phil says, “It makes us feel that we’ve been a big part of the Yamba community.
“It feels good to know that what we have done has been appreciated.”
“We’ve grown as the town has grown,” says Angus, “we are very humbled by the responses.”
What’s on the horizon? “A rest,” says Phil. “For both of us,” says Angus.
“We’ve no plans at this stage,” says Phil.
“Look out Yamba, Club 64 is coming (laughs),” says Angus.
Perhaps, two posts by Facebook friends sum up how the store has contributed to the Yamba community.
Zoë Ellem: “My first real job! Thanks legends for the memories and for the valuable life lessons you taught me. All the best with the next chapter! I think what I’ll miss most about that place is the chicken oven….”
Maree Kelly: “Ohh!!!! I always LOVED the fact that you were a local, family business …the end of an era…. Wishing all of you every happiness and success in your new endeavours…. Thank you for your wonderful service and friendship over many years….”