Timboon Berry World has risen from the ashes of a blaze that destroyed its cafe, being rebuilt into a thriving business.
Over the past two years owners Heather and Geoff Nicholls have built a bigger and better cafe at their strawberry farm which now stocks their newly created strawberry wine, liquor and cider.
And they have added a full Thai kitchen which has become popular with both diners and those wanting takeaway.
Despite being there when the fire broke out on January 10, 2020, Mrs Nichools said attempts to douse the flames were futile and the fire razed the building. And then COVID-19 hit.
So they spent the past two years owner-building a replacement with the help of their farm hand and friends. "We chipped away at it," she said.
They have plans to do even more work with a new verandah, staging area for live music, a small beer garden and a children's play area still in the works.
"There isn't anything like that in Timboon so we figured we might as well add that as well," she said.
"We will chip away at over winter.
"I just look at it in a positive light to be honest. When I look at what we've created out of the ashes, I'm pleased."
Mrs Nicholls said she was there when the fire started in the kitchen but when it spread inside the wall cavity, there was not much they could do.
"We had fire blankets, which we used. We had fire extinguishers, which we used. It was in the cavity of the wall before you knew it and the fire brigade can't even get in to put that out," she said.
Mrs Nicholls said the fire brigade were there quickly but there was little they could do to save the building.
"On that day you think 'what a disaster', but it wasn't. There were no lives lost," she said.
Locals came to their aid in the wake of the blaze with a marquee supplied by a Warrnambool business, and they were able to use caravans from the school and the Lions Club to help get them through."We had a lot of help, which was great," she said.
They received a small state government grant to help them with the rebuild.
It also gave them time to develop their range of wine, liquor and cider which is proving popular. "It's sold out down here. It sold out really quickly. We've got another batch in the brew at the moment," she said.
"It's the best kept secret."
The new building is double the size of the old one and can seat about 50 people inside and 30 outside.
She said they had started to "dabble in" serving Thai food from the old building but it was just too small.
"Now we are busy. Some nights we have a full house on a weekend," she said. "Takeaway is popular."
Before the fire they had added a little cafe that served cakes and devonshire teas and toasted sandwiches. "But the main drawcard was the strawberries," she said.
Strawberry picking season starts towards the end of October and runs through to the end of April, although there are still some strawberries in the fields after that.
Mrs Nicholls said international tourists had started to return with visitors coming from Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
"We're probably seeing 10 to 12 a day from Singapore," she said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.