When the Mallacoota bushfires destroyed their family business Carol Nelson and Paul Parthenides thought it might be the end. Then, a grant from the Victorian Government changed things.
Carol Nelson and Paul Parthenides’ food van, Greek Soul Food, was just one of the businesses ravaged by the fires which swept through the Victorian seaside town in 2019.
They escaped, together with their family and pets, but left behind the house they had lived in for 17 years, along with their family business.
“I must have hitched up the food van and unhitched it at least four or five times,” recalls Paul. “Then I thought, ‘We don’t even know where we’re going.’”
When they returned, everything was gone. “We were gutted,” Carol said. “Absolutely gutted.”
Since then, life has moved on for Carol and Paul. After someone suggested they apply for a Small Business Bushfire Recovery Grant they were put in touch with a local Business Recovery Adviser who helped them through the application process.
“They said to us, don’t just replace the food van…why not go for your dreams?”
So, they did, using the $50,000 grant they received through Victorian Government to buy a new trailer including a verandah with enough room to put in a bespoke spit oven for their famous lamb souvlaki.
In a serendipitous turn of events, the business reopened on 19 December last year, just a few days short of a year from when last summer’s fires struck.
Now, the iconic blue and white food van perched on Mallacoota’s main street is fast becoming a mainstay of a town that has long prided itself on being one of Victoria’s best hidden treasures.
It has become known to locals and visitors as the place to come for Greek favourites including slow cooked lamb, spanakopita, baklava and bougatsa – a delicious Greek breakfast pastry.
“We’re feeling very positive about the future,” said Paul.
“Here we are all of a sudden, at 60 and 63 years-old, and the world is our oyster!”
Information about the Business Recovery Advisory Service for those in East Gippsland and North East Victoria is available on the Business Victoria website.