IT TAKES FRESH EYES TO TRANSFORM A BUSINESS BUT REGENERATING A 63-YEAR OLD ICONIC LOCAL BUSINESS THAT WAS DUE TO BE CLOSED DOWN AND TURNED IN A SUBDIVISION TAKES GUTS, MOTIVATION, A DREAM AND A LOT OF PASSION.
You never know where inspiration will come from when improving your business. For some, it comes from paying attention to customer’s ideas and suggestions. For others, it’s researching their market, taking advice from industry experts and studying their counterparts. For the Owners of Limberlost, one of the longest-standing nurseries in Cairns, it was a combination of all of the above.
Since becoming the Owners of the nursery in 2013, Ross Rankine and Cherryl Fisher haven’t let the
pictured Cherryl Fisher & Ross Rankine
nursery beds and improving the layout, watering systems, display benches and signage.
They’ve also redeveloped the nursery’s plant production area, which now grows over 50 per cent of their own plants, increased the range of garden décor, pots and garden associated products they stock, and in a move from traditional nurseries, opened a cafe in 2014. A decision that was so well received by the public that the café soon needed to be extended.
“Vines Cafe was an old house built in the early 1900s that the original owners lived in,” says Cherryl. “We saw its potential and decided to put the café in that space.
“When we started Vines, we thought we’d open a little café and offer coffee and cakes, but it has just grown so much since then. We have extended the kitchen and put in a new on site car park
since we first opened.”
The café, which also includes a gift shop, has become a popular meeting place for both locals and visitors to the area as well as enhancing the Limberlost experience for
Vines employ 10 staff, including four chefs and a specialist pastry chef, and each item on the menu is cooked in house, using herbs and
garnishes from the kitchen’s herb garden.
In addition as much local produce as possible is sourced, including Tableland meat from a local butcher, produce from the region and fresh bread from a Cairns bakery.
Mareeba-born Cherryl and Malanda-born Ross both used to love visiting the nursery with their parents when they were children, a regular visit for their families when they came to Cairns. And while neither are experienced horticulturalists, they saw the opportunity to restore the business they loved visiting as children and decided to purchase the nursery which was earmarked to be demolished and developed into residential subdivision.
“We both loved coming here as children and didn’t want to lose Limberlost,” says Cherryl. “And because neither of us were from the industry we took the advice of outside experts. We’re part of mentoring groups Garden Retail Success and Gro Networking, who have been wonderful and extremely helpful.
“Without those groups to support us we may not have got to where we are today. Other business owners need to realise they don’t have to be on their own. There are a lot of support networks out there that will help you improve your business.”
The idea to include a coffee shop within the nursery – a point of difference to other nurseries in Cairns, came from a number of sources including customers. Originally there was a little tea house on the property which had long since disappeared, however after Cherryl and Ross visited other nurseries throughout Australia and New Zealand they were encouraged to open Vines.
“We did our research thoroughly,” Cherryl says. “We wanted people to really experience the nursery, so they could enjoy relaxing over a coffee before and after exploring Limberlost. While not common in Cairns, there are nurseries in larger cities that enhance the experience of visiting a nursery by including a café on their premises.”
While owning and operating their own business has been an eye-opener for the couple, they believe that change is extremely important for businesses to remain relevant.
“Business owners can’t stay still,” Cherryl says. “They need to be innovative and open to new ideas. Even if you are a successful business, you need to constantly think of new ideas to remain successful.”