Interview and pics by Prue. Edited by Mick.
Very Mick and I first moved to Sunrise Beach back in 2002 where we were amazed at what you could buy at the so called ‘fruit and veg’ shop known as Ozigo’s, near the BP. Apart from your bog standard types of milk and bread, it stocked a huge variety of sourdoughs, gluten free spelts, kamuts, etc, stuff we had never heard of. On the adjoining shelves sat handmade soaps, incense, buckwheat flours, and everything in between. Formerly from Melbourne, we used to lovingly mock the quirky stock necessary to cater for the average Byronite.
After 12 months we moved to hillside Suffolk and assumed we would lose our quirky, local shopping experience. We were pleasantly surprised, however, to discover a funny little fruit and veg shop at the caravan park opposite the golf course – it had no signage but was parochially known as Crosby’s, apparently the name of the former owners. It wasn’t long before we came to know the new owners, Shaz & Baz.
These two managed to surpass the old Ozigo shopping experience with their higgledy piggledy, make shift shop that stocked EVERYTHING. The shop was tiny, with customers climbing over boxes and each other as they surveyed the overstocked shelves. Friendly, tolerant smiles exchanged as customers unintentionally nudged and bumped their way around the two tightly packed aisles. They queued patiently at what was apparently the check-out, a piece of bench the size of a postage stamp, as the incredibly friendly staff juggled weighing and packing the purchased goods.
Two years ago, Shaz and Baz moved from the Crosby location to a far bigger premise, and as luck would have it, it’s at the end of our street! We now have a massively stocked ‘pantry’, literally a stone’s throw from our kitchen. We have watched what was an empty, soulless, mothballed shop, stocked with last year’s vegies and week old bread and run by unmotivated tired owners, morph into a buzzing thriving shopping haven with shelves filled to the brim… everything a reasonable cook could wish for and all served with the usual warmth and friendliness that is Shaz & Baz. We are blessed… and this cook even loves the prices!
I recently met with Shaz who shyly requested if daughter Dani could also attend the interview. When I enquired as to why, she replied very coyly, ‘I’d just feel more comfortable’. No problem, but was surprised how shy Shaz really is, especially since Very Mick and I are in the shop up to 3 times a day. My first question was a no brainer…
How does someone so shy work 12 hours a day dealing with the public?
I don’t feel so shy when I’m working. I guess I can hide behind the role of serving people.
How many daughters could work with their mothers all day, then book regular date nights with her – both leaving their boys (Luke & Baz) at home. Clearly Dani and Shaz are incredibly close
You are always smiling, polite and happy… are you sure there’s nothing in the vegies you’re not telling us about? Don’t you tire of the public and the constant demands of we punters?
Well, I guess I would if everyone wasn’t so nice and lovely. We really do have very nice customers.
I’m guessing you must hate socializing then?
Yeah, well, work is my social life. I certainly don’t need one outside of business hours.
Are you aware of the sense of community you have created by moving your business into hillside Suffolk?
I guess… you see people chatting here all the time. We’re aware how we’ve changed it but we were also aware of the potential… the change was inevitable. And we benefit from the community as well. For example Mel, who lives across the road, she lets us know if we’ve left lights on or if there is anything she feels we should know about. She has our phone number, and we have hers, so I can call her if ever I’m here at night by myself and need company. And Sardia over the back is the same… we’re not just a business next door, we’re their neighbours.
It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done, but we wouldn’t have done it without the help of Dani and Luke. (Luke is Dani’s loooonnng time partner. They met at primary school.)
Yet another sign of the sense of community Shaz & Baz have supported.
How did you get into this line of business?
Baz was doing wholesale fruit & veg and used to deliver to the caravan park shop (Crosby’s). He came home one day and suggested buying it… yet another one of his crazy ideas… but we all agreed. (We, being Dani, Luke, Shaz & Baz’s son Aaron – who initially worked with them until he moved interstate) Initially I kept my job at the nursing home (St Andrew’s in Ballina).
You actually live in Wardell. Was the driving from there to Byron ever a concern?
Not really… it’s better than driving in Sydney.
Who could argue with that? When did you live in Sydney?
I was born in Sydney and met Barry when I was 18. He was born in Lismore, but grew up in Bonalbo, a tiny town west of Casino.
What did you do in Sydney?
A million jobs… we owned a gift shop for a little bit, we did courier work and Barry was a car salesman at one stage. We moved up here when Dani was five. Barry wanted to come back to the Northern Rivers area and we thought it was a good place to bring up kids. We worked for ten years in a variety of jobs before going into the business at the Caravan Park. We were there for ten years before purchasing here in Beech Drive.
How has the shift in location affected you and the business?
It’s a lot busier here. The shop is open longer but we do the same hours as before… 60 hours per week.
These pics were taken on a Thursday when the shifts cross over for an hour and all staff are on board to help with the deliveries. Amanda top, Santosha left and Joal right.
Does everybody work 60 hours?
No. Santosha works five days a week, Dani and Luke do five six-hour shifts and one 12 hour shift
He’s doing all the behind the scenes things like going to the markets and ordering… and we’ve got a few hundred chickens… so he packs the eggs.
Baz and his eggs
Gosh, that’d be a job in itself, wouldn’t it?
Yeah, there’s a lot to do… change their bedding, keep the feeding up, but it’s good because all the scraps from here go to the chooks.
Now that ‘s sustainable living! Is that something you guys are concerned about?
Oh, definitely. We also installed all those solar panels on the roof when we moved here.
Dani & Luke are about to go on a European holiday so how do you structure things when key people are away?
(Dani laughing, says… Shaz doesn’t get a day off! ) We’ve got really great staff and we’re taking on another guy who will take over Luke’s role while he’s away.
Is that the market gig?
No, that’s Barry’s job. He goes up once a week and we get deliveries five days a week. Baz loves going up. It’s his day out of Byron… he has lunch and keeps up with his market contacts… that’s why we can do the specials we do, cos he knows a lot of people and maintains those relationships.
Independent grocers are notorious for high mark ups, yet you keep your prices down. Why don’t you follow suit?
We don’t believe in doing that. Byron Bay has so many beautiful products and whilst some of our supplies come from the Brisbane markets, we also stock a lot of local products and believe everybody should be able to try them… so we do our best to make them affordable. Like the Brookfarm muesli… it’s normally sold for $25 plus, but we sell it for $20… it’s beautiful muesli and really popular.
What type of salt would you like? And the spices on the shelves to the left are not even half the choices we have.
Has the lolly aspect of the business changed things? Does it annoy you serving all the kids?
No… they’re mostly good. We have had to ban a few so that keeps the others on their toes. We do get lots of kids from the skate park asking for glasses of water and wanting to use the phone to call their parents after skate accidents.
What do you love about living and working in Byron/Suffolk?
I love being able to walk to the beach and seeing people I know. Everybody is so friendly… especially here in Suffolk. We went to the pub recently to watch the Rabbitos play and some of our customers came up to say hello and invited us to join them… it was really nice to see them outside of the shop.
What are the challenges for you living/working here?
Hmmm… I ‘m trying to think…
So what’s your fave restaurant?
It use to be Hot Rock but it’s closed now. The food was great and the owners are lovely. We felt really comfortable there. We have lots of others we love but we also supply a lot of the restaurants with wholesale… so they’re all equally great (she says chuckling).
And your favourite shop?
Well, we don’t shop anywhere else so it has to be ours! But for clothes and other needs we always shop locally because we have so many businesses that support us.
Leaving the shop unattended, we had to make our team shot snappy. In descending order: King of the egg castle, Baz, followed by Luke, Joal, Santosha, Dani, Amanda and shortie Shaz.
It took some doing to drag Shaz away for this interview but is it any wonder when she devotes 60 hours each week to satisfying the culinary callings of Suffolk Park. Energy is a thrashed word in Byron Bay, but if you want to experience the best of it just pop into our Beech Drive ‘pantry’. Shaz, Baz, their kids and staff (Santosha, Joal, Amanda and newbie, Joel) exude a fun, fabulous energy, a commodity Woollies can only dream about… old style, friendly service where nothing is a problem and every effort is made to accommodate patrons’ needs, no matter how Byronian. Through passion and a work ethic that would make Kevin Rudd jealous, this humble family’s investment has created a heart and soul hub in a suburb where there was none. We, and all of our Suffolk neighbours, are immeasurably grateful.