COVID-19 has changed dining habits and renewed some things people fondly remember from what many sentimentally refer to as 'The Good Old Days'.
Among them is a growing demand for people wanting to enjoy a night out in an intimate and romantic setting.
Particularly if they can find one with character, charm and history.
Modern venues with open settings have become the new norm in recent decades but since the coronavirus outbreak some diners are preferring to choose venues that offer them a private room all to themselves.
Ravensthorpe Guesthouse and Restaurant is one eatery that decided to cater for that demand.
When the COVID-19 lockdown occurred it hadn't offered fine dining in the guesthouse rooms for seven years.
While Jim and Deborah McCallum acquired the property with that in mind two decades ago weddings became so popular they were unable to do both.
But everything changed in March and the McCallum family realised there was an opportunity to reintroduce what so many people used to love.
With five private dining rooms Ravensthorpe can cater for up to 55 people.
'When people realise they can get a private dining room they think it is so good," Mr McCallum said.
"It has rekindled our love of a la carte. And our chef Nigel Haney is really happy because his background is as a fine dining chef".
Mrs McCallum said the feedback from people is they not only feel safe but that the experience is really intimate and special.
"I think people are coming out less during COVID-19 but they are happy to spend more for a special occasion," she said.
Son Hamish McCallum has carefully planned social distancing measures in a way to give people the best possible experience.
While his father does his COVID Safety Marshall role in style, dressed in a fine suit.
During the COVID-19 lockdown Ravensthorpe offered takeaway weekend family roasts so people could still enjoy a beautiful feast at home.
"The feedback has been amazing," Mrs McCallum said.
The family business also returned to the markets with its Ravenous Food Company range.
During lockdown the marquee and function area was modernised.
And as restrictions ease Ravensthorpe is begining to cater for weddings, funerals and other events again.
The McCallum family believes when the Albion Park Rail bypass opens Ravensthorpe will be highly visible and that will remind people about the historic property.
NextGen leaders nurtured
Regional Development Australia Illawarra, the University of Wollongong' Sydney Business School and The Illawarra Connection this week renewed their commitment to encourage our emerging generation of leaders.
Meeting at the UOW Innovation Campus representatives from the three organisations announced three-and-a-half new scholarships for the next Leadership Illawarra Program intake.
Leadership Illawarra Program steering committee chair Daniel Rowan, Sydney Business School representative and UOW Faculty of Business and Law executive dean Colin Picker and The Illawarra Connection president Graham Lancaster singed a Memorandum of Understanding as a commitment of support for three more years.
All expressed the importance of fostering growth and development of participants.
The program is designed to enhance the leadership skills and experience of emerging leaders so they can better support the community and economic growth of the region
RDA Illawarra's Debra Murphy said the COVID-19 Pandemic has not stopped interest being shown for the next two year intake starting in February 2021.
Mr Lancaster said the networking and mentor/mentee relationships were among the great benefits that lasted long after each two year program.
Mr Rowan encouraged people to apply for the next intake now.
'We are looking for 15 to 20 fee paying students for the next two year cohort," he said.
Mr Rowan said he had seen first hand the benefits to a business of having an employee do the program.
"Jacinta Cali went through as an Internetrix employee for her own personal development as a future leader".
Sarah-Louise Thompson, of Farmborough Heights, is a finalist in the Soaring Micro Award category of 2020 Altitude Awards for Australian micro businesses.
The annual awards recognise sole traders developing their business concept on their own.
Ms Thompson had been a beauty therapist for two decades when she established in Elysian Therapies in February 2019.
"I have worked in different styles of beauty salons and my idea was to incorporate some of the things I like the most," she said
Elysian provides holistic treatments such as sound healing, meditation and other beauty therapy services in a stress free spa like environment.
Ms Thompson's objective is to perform beauty treatments in a more holistic way and each session ends with Tibetan singing bowls.
"The sound healing bowls we use are made of brass or quartz. They are all different sizes and tune in to different parts of your body. We end every treatment with sound healing," she said.
"We use a rubber mallet for the crystal bowls and a felt mallet for the brass bowls.
"You use the mallet around the rim and it creates a sound and vibration.
"When you lie down with the bowls next to you that vibration goes through your whole body."
Mrs Thompson provides a range of treatments for the skin, body and mind.
She said the bowls help people leave feeling relaxed. And thinks that is one of the reasons her business is so popular during COVID-19.
The Altitude Awards are presented by Women With Altitude and The Men's Altitude Network.
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