Fruit shop makes meal out of boom in workers

FRESH TUCKER: Phill McCormack and Helen Whittaker, and their staff at Gladstone Fruit Shop, have found a niche market catering fresh, healthy, homemade meals for workers to pick up in the early hours of the morning before they head to Curtis Island.
FRESH TUCKER: Phill McCormack and Helen Whittaker, and their staff at Gladstone Fruit Shop, have found a niche market catering fresh, healthy, homemade meals for workers to pick up in the early hours of the morning before they head to Curtis Island. Mike Richards

BACON and egg breakfast rolls, re-heatable meals and homemade cakes have become a staple part of the Gladstone Fruit Shop.

Owners Phill McCormack and Helen Whittaker have been in the fruit industry their whole lives, but when the Curtis Island projects came to Gladstone they saw an opportunity to diversify.

More than 250 workers pass through their doors before 7am, with at least 700 customers in total every day.

Their team of workers begin cooking from 3.30 every morning to make bacon and egg breakfast rolls and homemade meals.

Ms Whittaker said it became a "one-stop shop" where people could get hot meals, their newspaper, smokes and coffee.

"We've always had fruit shops, but when this event came to town we saw these guys had to have their food," she said.

"We do all the catering for the company's training sessions, too."

Mr McCormack said they had employed more people to help with the catering, and the 15 staff did a great job keeping up with the hungry hoards.

"We haven't had to put any staff off, but we also haven't put any new ones on," he said, with construction beginning to slow down.

When asked whether they were prepared for a downturn when construction finished, Ms Whittaker said it was on their minds but it was still a few years off.

"We've got a good clientele around here as well. It's not just the island workers who buy from us," she said.

"A lot of people that don't want to cook, still want a fresh, homemade meal."

She said they also looked after a few of the restaurants and hotels around town, and had begun to take part in the PCYC markets, as well as catering for gluten-free and other dietary requirements.

Topics:  business profile curtis island gladstone business mining boom

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