The Emerald Beach General Store is undergoing a gradual transformation, since brothers Hugh and Louis Riley took over and started putting their stamp on things, introducing new suppliers, delicious coffee and a fresh take on the traditional beachside takeaway.
Hey guys. How are things going at the Emerald Beach General Store since we last spoke to you?
Hey! Yeah, things at the store have been good. We’re chipping away at some changes, we’re having fun, we’ve been busy most of the time, which is awesome, and it feels like a good summer! We’ve got an amazing new specialty coffee supplier in Marvell St Roasters and a change in the menu is gonna be great over summer. Fresh!
It’s a mad time of year and it can feel kind of hectic, but you know everyone’s in the same boat, so there’s a nice vibe around. It’s exciting when the days get longer and you’re so close to the beach – even if were not in the water as much as we’d like!
Louis, your background is in wine and coffee mostly, and you have mentioned that you’ve both worked in the hospitality industry for a long time.Can you tell us about some of your experience in the industry?
L: I learnt to slap out cappuccinos and wash dishes during high school, and it sort of just carried on from there. Cafés and restaurants are so fun when you’re that age and you just wanna have a good time. I always loved food and as you stay in the industry a while, certain things just stick with you. For me, that was booze; I just loved the stories in wine. The process and the connection to the land, the culture. It’s just so interesting and when you strip back all the wank, it’s just a bloody good beverage! I appreciated coffee more after learning about wine too – very different culture, but a similar connection to farms and people. The more you learn, the better it gets and the more intriguing it becomes. It is also a good drink.
H: It’s so cool when you can give people the same awesome product every morning. It’s great to see people coming in as they start their day, and you can have a bit of fun with them in the process! That’s why I’ve come back to the industry so much over the years – just being able to share a good time with customers and meeting good people.
I worked cafés and restaurants from high school as well, in between stints in the circus, studying fitness and surfing. I started managing a couple of places and always enjoyed it.
As some pretty well travelled dudes, what is it about the Coffs Coast that made you want to put down roots here?
Mum and Dad are here. They’ve always welcomed us home and there were usually mates around, as well as a full fridge.
The timing was pretty perfect too; the shop was for sale, we were both keen for a challenge and maybe some time to settle back home. It was always fun to come back for a visit, but living here is just amazing. The coast, the weather, the laid back culture, the people. We’re trying hard to stay focused on making our small business work and you can get a bit of tunnel vision, but it’s important not to take it for granted. It’s a really special place!
What would you consider to be some of the Coffs Coast’s best kept secrets?
There’s so many! At the same time, it’s just feeling like it’s getting busier; there’s a nice buzz around the Woolgoolga, Northern Beaches area. The bars and cafés are going from strength to strength; Ground Earth and the Sunset Room are some favourites. By the water in Moonee is a super chill place to spend the day – great spot for families.
Sawtell’s always pumping too – loads of places – Boambee reserve is an awesome place for kids or a BBQ. Really, there are so many options: hunting waves up and down the coast, chasing waterfalls inland, taking your shoes of around the Bellinger.
Is there anything in your travels that you would say has influenced the direction you want to take the food you’re cooking at the store in?
There’s probably something in the background, but really we’re just figuring it out as we go, ha ha! We just want to keep it simple; the place was just a classic run down takeaway not that long ago, so we’re happy if we just push more fresh food and have some interesting coffee options. We both feel the simple things done well are usually the most enjoyable. A few simple things, an amazing coffee, then go to the beach.
What are some of your favourite dishes to cook, either at home with the family or at the store?
L: We love tacos and we’ve gotten pretty good at whipping up a last minute taco mash up. Middle Eastern food is a favourite; it’s always nourishing and there are heaps of interesting wine choices that match well. I like a good sausage too. Fresh salad and a good sausage!
H: Yeah, we eat pretty well at home – lots of sausage. We all live together, so there’s a lot going on in the kitchen at times! Sometimes all I want is Promite on sourdough; it’s amazing. I have some pretty funny cravings … I’m not the pregnant one in the house, but find myself eating cereal for dinner occasionally too, ha ha.