While the famous pies will still be top of the menu, new owners Adam Jeffrey and wife Carol Brooker, along with business partner Richard Bloch have put together some exciting ideas to take the Mullumbimby icon to a whole new level.
Uncle Tom’s was just a ‘bit of a shack’ when after the war a banana grower and pastry cook named Tom McLean started baking pies.
“Really, good pies, they were”, recalled Brunswick Valley Historical Society volunteer Nick Hollingworth. “People used to come from everywhere to buy them.”
The ‘new’ Uncle Tom’s shop has been revamped and refitted, with stylish red shelving and bench tops and checkerboard tiles giving a retro look, and a big red window affording a view into the bakery that had hitherto been hidden.
Now early-bird customers will be able to watch baker Dave Mott at his trade, turning out the famous pies just as he has for the past 28 years.
For a while the core business stays the same, it is the add-ons and innovative ideas that will breathe new life into Uncle Tom’s.
“We’re putting in an espresso machine so people can call in for breakfast,” said Richard, barista and operations manager, “and the pies will be the same, but we have ideas to put in better quality ingredients, and sourcing as much as we can locally.”
And it is local produce that is to be a key factor in the makeover of the old premises.
“We live on 50 acres in Myocum, with cattle and citrus,” explained Adam, “but there is nowhere in town for us to sell our produce.
“We thought it would be great to be able to offer Mullumbimby people like us a place to sell their local produce and pretty much ask farm gate prices for it.”
The new space at Uncle Tom’s will thus be turned over to local growers for their fresh produce – fruit, vegetables, lemon butters and jams, preserves and condiments, and growers setting their own prices.
“All the local growers we’ve spoken to have been very supportive,” said Richard.
And down the track there are plans for a seasonal menu, where people can sit down and eat a meal that is locally grown and read about their growers and see their photos.
“Ideally if we can do this successfully then others can do it too.”
And meanwhile Adam has been talking to both Byron Council and the Chamber of Commerce about renovating the “very run down” house adjoining the premises and with the idea of turning it into an information centre.
“We’ve only owned Uncle Tom’s for 28 days,” said Adam, “but we’ve already had so many tourists stop to ask directions.”
The new Uncle Tom’s will also stock basic groceries and on the walls Adam is keen to have a display of old photos documenting the history of the premises, as well as space for local artists to display their work.
And while for Adam, Carol and Richard it has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears getting ready for the opening this week, the “awesome” response they have had from the community so far has made it all worthwhile.
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