The ever changing rules and restrictions of the pandemic has kept northern Illawarra businessman Jonathan Leggett on his toes, but quick thinking has proved successful as he opens another venture.
The owner of Thirroul's Wilde Cafe (colloquially known as Black Market after the coffee they serve) has expanded to a second store - offering locally sourced cheese, cured meats, wine and many delicacies made in-house under the Pickled Poet name.
Mr Leggett - who is also celebrating the first birthday of his first child - said the past year had been a challenge, but his goal was to keep his business running and his staff employed.
"For me, it's been trying to keep as many of my staff in jobs as possible and trying to find ways to generate revenue and things for them to do to keep them in a job," he said.
"To make it through we reinvented ourselves by making a lot of our own retail food products - we were baking bread, a lot of in-house pastries, granola, take-home relishes and sauces.
"The silver lining out of a really difficult year was a lot of interest in the products we were making and so it became a kind of evolution to have a retail deli next door."
Mr Leggett said lockdowns had "turned them on their heads" and once again the opening of the bar came amidst a time the community was forced to stay home.
Originally he wanted to focus on opening the wine bar with gourmet grazing platters to complement divine local drops, though stay-at-home orders meant their take-home produce became paramount.
Pickled Poet on Lawrence Hargrave Drive will rotate stock monthly so you often won't be finding the same cheese or tomato relish you bought previously and wines will only be sourced from "small batch boutique producers".
"We will change and rotate as we go from wines to cheese and even products made in-house ... the idea is kind of similar to the cafe ... where we feature different single origin [coffees] each month and source what's best at that particular point of the year to showcase," Mr Leggett said.
"So the beers, the wines, the cheeses, the meats will change as the months go by to keep it interesting. We're not trying to be anything like a big mainstream deli or a supermarket."
Currently the Pickled Poet is open Monday to Sunday from 8am to 4pm whilst lockdown continues, but will move to Thursday to Sunday from 2pm to 10pm once we can all have a frolic in hospitality venues again with a glass in hand.
The venue will be family friendly and pet friendly with their rear courtyard also licensed.
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