Cobden Timboon Coast Times
BerryWorld owner vows to rebuild

THE goodwill of the Timboon and district community has lifted the spirits of BerryWorld owner Heather Nicholls following a fire at the business last week.

The business’ café and restaurant was turned to rubble after a fire broke out in the kitchen on Friday afternoon.

Ms Nicholls said the fire took hold of the property in minutes despite attempts to extinguish the blaze with two fire blankets and extinguishers.

She said her elderly mother and four of her friends and two staff were in the building when the fire occurred but escaped rather quickly.

The close call for the staff failed to stop business, with employees returning to work as normal on Saturday, operating out of a marquee and two caravans the community had put in place following the fire.

“The community has rallied together and this (the marquee) was the first thing that came and it was erected for us,” Ms Nicholls said.

“It’s on loan from one of the event hire companies in Warrnambool, while the caravan has been refurbished by the school and that was parked here by Sunday morning.

“I think because of the community rallying behind us and supporting us that we’ll just keep trading and have a laugh.”

Ms Nicholls said there was a mixed impact to the weekend’s trade, revealing it remained similar to other weekends.

“Business was business on Saturday and Sunday, it was flat out, so not to the strawberry side of it (was there much impact),” she said.

“But obviously we have a liquor licence and a café, so the food and alcohol side of it is affected, but not by much. 

“When you count the cost of staff, electricity, water and toilets flushing, we probably netted as much as we might normally anyway.”

Despite the devastation, Ms Nicholls said she was philosophical about the incident but said the time frame to return to full operation was unknown.

She said she was still waiting for an assessor to come and determine the cause of the fire.

“I think we’ll just move on and rebuild and probably do it better,” Ms Nicholls said.

“We have to wait for an assessor and once he’s done his bit and we have got the okay to demolish, the local shire have already been in and said you know, just let them know and they will help out with permits.

“So once again there’s a lot of support.” 

Ms Nicholls thanked the local community for their help and support as well as the staff for the role they had played in the aftermath of the fire.

“I’d really like to acknowledge that the support of the community has helped us make a decision to carry on and the staff they are amazing,” she said.

“We’ll just rebuild bigger and better.”

Major damage: The rows of strawberries paint a stark picture in front of the crumpled remains of BerryWorld’s former café and restaurant.