By Melissa Keogh
Quality coffee, freshly-baked lemon meringue tarts and almond croissants are not usually associated with a truck stop town like Tailem Bend.
The rural service town – 100km southeast of Adelaide and often referred to as the gateway to Melbourne – is more known for its service stations and semi-trailers.
But recently Tailem Bend has been growing into its new identity, largely due to the opening of the $110m Bend Motorsport Park, set to revive the local economy by boosting employment and visitation to the town.
Small business owners Amy and Neil Chinsami are also contributing to the changing face of the sleepy railway town, thanks to the popularity of their popular main street coffee shop, The Little Local Co.
“We have customers who say they had never been to the main street before now, and others who say they didn’t even know there was a main street,” says Amy, who grew up in the small Aboriginal community of Raukkan.
“People are now turning off the highway to have a coffee and locals say they have been waiting for somewhere you can just sit with a good coffee and cake.
“It’s made an impact on the community.”
The Little Local Co opened in late 2017, but has already built a strong following and sound reputation for quality coffee and delectable sweet treats.
The coffee shop’s popularity has prompted Amy and Neil to prepare for the opening of their second Little Local Co establishment, The Kitchen, along Princes Highway.
The pair are expecting to open The Kitchen’s doors in August and say the café will specialise in fresh and local meals, inspired by their Aboriginal and Fijian backgrounds.
“The Kitchen will be the only café on the highway,” says Amy, who draws inspiration from her community, Raukkan, considered to be the heart of Ngarrindjeri land.
“We infuse wattle seed from the Coorong and Raukkan area in our cold brew,” she says.
“It’s something that is part of my community and my land and I want to expose others to these new flavours.”
Neil is Fijian/Indian with the handcrafted chocolates on offer incorporating Fijian brown sugar and cacao.
The Little Local Co’s coffee shop is well known for its baked goods and coffee, from local premium roaster Cirelli.
Amy’s own lemon meringue bombs just about fly off the counter, as do a range of other sweet treats such as orange almond cakes and chocolate brownies.
Amy and Neil began their Little Local Co journey as a small catering company and pop-up coffee cart, making appearances at events and local footy matches.
“We had both loved food and coffee and had always dreamed of having our own café one day,” Amy says.
“It took a few years of planning and researching and having a look at potential places in Murray Bridge, but nothing suited us.
“Then we were driving through Tailem Bend’s main street one day and saw a tiny shopfront. We just knew it would be an amazing space for a coffee shop.”
Amy says there is more to Tailem Bend than meets the eye.
“I think people do just see it as a place that you pass by when you’re wanting to get to somewhere else. But if you come into the heart of the community … there are no empty shops in the main street and I think that’s really great.
“There is so much happening in Tailem Bend.”
Header photo courtesy of Glenn Power.
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