Sunken Chip is Sandy Beach’s trading post; they are a little of this and a lot of that, a general store with papers, a grocery shop with locally grown produce, house-made goodies and handmade gifts, frozen meals, a takeaway with delicious burgers, local coffee and a community hub where locals regularly hold workshops and meetings. FOCUS grabbed a coffee with owner Karina Smith to find out more …
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast/Sandy Beach?
Some time ago now my husband and I had the opportunity to house sit in Repton to live off the grid and self-sustain for a year, it was a challenge, but we loved it and pushed on for two years. One weekend we were heading north and saw a garage sale sign on the old highway which made us turn off into Sandy Beach, we knew nothing about the place but everyone we passed smiled and waved. We took a stroll on the deserted beach and on the way home poked our heads into an open house – we knew we had found home. A couple of years later the shop came up on the market and the rest is history.
When did you first realise you had a passion for food?
Growing up on a farm, one of my jobs was to milk our cow, Melly, before and after school. As it happens, Melly was quite the producer of milk, which left me no choice but to get creative. In the evenings I would scrape the cream off the milk to make butter, then I would heat the milk, add lemon juice and sift out the curd. We’d eat some like that, and the rest I would mix in herbs and salt and strain overnight; delicious and fresh, we called it “Melly Cheese”. Looking back on it now, it really was my first taste of honest and fresh food, teaching me to stay true to the ingredient, which absolutely shaped my approach to preparing food.
How has the journey evolved through the years?
In addition to my family farm experiences, I was really keen to get out into the hospitality industry. I cut my teeth waiting on tables in five star resorts, which shaped my understanding of atmosphere and the customer experience. At the age of 19 I moved to Lismore from Sydney and opened my first restaurant with my girlfriend, Katarina; she would cook, and I would run front of house. After a while Katarina moved on, so I hired a chef and kept the business running, then, one booked-out Friday night, he didn’t show for work, so with my two apprentices we had to take the reins. I did 90 covers and loved every minute of it – loved the buzz, loved cooking; it’s that vibe that still drives me today.
Sunken Chip is an unusual name. How did it come about?
My family love a pun; it’s rare that a conversation ends without trying to “out pun” one another. Sunken Chip arrived after an epic family pun marathon that went on for weeks. From memory, some of the other suggestions included Chip Wrecked, Chip Hooray, Oh my Cod, Loose Lips Sink Chips …
Where do you source your products and produce?
I get lemons and limes from Rita’s tree, Tomatoes from Deb, Ross and Ray, Honey from Mark the Honey man, Flowers by Bonnie, happy eggs from Jack and Lily, Chillies from Hayley, Curry leaves, lettuce and rocket from Lauren, Baked goods from Rosie, Brett bakes our bread, Krissy makes our Booch, Jules & Laura supply our skin care products, Mitch mows our lawns and Luke roasts our coffee especially for us; the list goes on. I buy everything we possibly can from locals and local businesses.
How important is it to support local businesses?
We all know that locals supporting locals allows a community to prosper together. Buying a burger at our local shop not only supports the nine local staff we employ; it helps all our local suppliers. Additionally for us, it doesn’t stop at supporting local businesses – we wanted to take it a step further and operate an environmentally sustainable business model and align with other locals who share our vision – we go to the trouble of sorting all our waste (including soft plastics), thanks to Solar Powered Homes 70% of our energy consumption comes from the sun, our waste oil is 100% reused by locals, and our green waste helps feed worms; even with our bottle recycling the local kids are pitching in too.
How do you keep yourself organised and motivated?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge to run a small business whilst raising a young family and picking up photographic work around the country. My awesome husband, Dave, keeps the machines running and looks after our administration. At the Sunken Chip – Lauren and Chenoa, my amazing full-time staffers, help to keep me organised, and great coffee certainly keeps me motivated.
What new projects are you working on at the moment?
I always have a few projects under my belt at any given time, both in the ‘Chip and around the community. For example, we regularly run different food themed afternoons and nights, we’ve got a new range of snap frozen prepared meals, we’ve got a community project about to kick off painting our local toilet block, and we are trying to save Hearne’s Lake. I’m always finding new ideas to try, and lately I’ve been pondering that we’d be silly not to have a restaurant on the upper deck with a view of the ocean …
How can we get in touch?
Jump on to our Facebook page, or give us a call on 6656 1011.