SOUTH West Rock's Malt & Honey café opened roughly 18 months ago, just in time to greet the fires that ravaged the Macleay.
Then COVID-19 reared its ugly head, and just as everything started to calm down, a freak storm front bombarded the Mid North Coast.
It hasn't been an easy feat keeping the doors open through all the troubles, but husband and wife team Bruce and Faye Buchanan have managed to push past all obstacles in their way, and ensure their new business has not only survived, but thrived.
"We are very happy with how the café is going, but it has obviously come with challenges," Bruce said.
"The lockdowns have been very difficult for a lot of small businesses, but we were lucky enough to be able to evolve and start offering COVID safe dining options like takeaway.
"Since we opened late 2019, it's been a bit like that Clint Eastwood movie; we've experienced The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
The rigid Government imposed restrictions have seen more than a few businesses struggle, but Bruce says they tried to turn the unprecedented situation into a positive one.
"During the lockdowns, it has mostly been locals around, so we got to know a lot of our regular customers very well, and have made good friends; we try to see the good in every bad situation," he said.
"Despite everything going on, we have been fortunate to retain most of our staff throughout; we are so blessed to have so many wonderful people working here.
"The community have been amazing as well; the support they've shown us, and the way we've been welcomed and embraced is terrific."
Faye and Bruce's attitude is admirable, but their hard work and dedication have also seen their efforts recognised at the 2021 Macleay Valley Business Awards.
There was a strong field of local businesses, but the fledgling café came away with the Excellence in Tourism, Accommodation and Hospitality award.
"It came as a surprise, but we were thrilled to win our category," Bruce said.
"The next day, I was passing around the award instead of the menu; it is now proudly displayed in the café for everyone to see."
Bruce hasn't always had the best luck in the Macleay, but ever the optimist, he has never let them sully his outlook.
"I've been coming to The Rocks for 58 years on holidays; we actually found the town after our family car broke down," he said.
"My family were travelling around 1963, and we lost our fan belt near Kempsey; back then, it was a lot harder to find replacement parts, so it took quite a while before the car was fixed.
"The guys at Kempsey gave us a lift to South West Rocks while we were waiting, and I fell in love with the place; it was all a happy coincidence."
Over the years, Bruce kept returning, and later as he and Faye approached retirement age, they decided to make South West Rocks their new home.
"The plan was to try and permanently retire here, so we bought a house eight years ago," Brue said.
"After I was made redundant in my previous job, we came here and saw the café was for sale; five weeks later, we were the owners.
"I've always thought you need to work in the town you plan to retire in, get a lay of the land, become part of the community and see if it's a good place to settle down or just a fun holiday destination."
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