After looking for opportunities to create a social enterprise in Siem Reap, Cambodia, mother and son duo James and Tracy Skilbeck decided to do something a bit closer to home.
Within around eight hours of the Cottage cafe going on the market and a call from James’ business broker, the pair had found the perfect location to make their socially conscious business dreams a reality.
“We came and sat down with the owners for three hours, had a big chat with them and we said, ‘Let’s do it’. We could see it had a lot of potential,” James says.
Before taking over the business late last year, James worked hands-on for three weeks with the previous owners and staff in gaining a full understanding of the Pakington Street favourite – what worked and what didn’t. From there the mother-son duo were able to apply what they’d hoped for the venue, as well as what they’d learnt would be best for the customers.
As a result, the newly renovated space boasts a homely feel, a fresh coat of paint, a new look menu catering to dietary and allergy needs and an emphasis on supporting local. Remnants of the old cafe remain with menu favourites the eggs Benedict, the burger and original corn jacks still available to order.
With the concept of the business originally inspired by Tracy and James’ connection with a young Cambodian man, the Geelong cafe is currently working on partnering with a charity focused on helping the Cambodian community.
“I met Somnang a couple of years ago in Cambodia and he just came across as a really hard worker. But just like a lot of people in Cambodia, he had been dealt with a hard hand,” Tracy says. “The scale of the poverty there is just mind-numbing.”
Pakington Cottage also stocks Thank You water and soap, Who Gives a Crap toilet paper and donates leftover food to Spare Meals Geelong.
“They just do the most incredible job. If we don’t have food leftover on a Monday or a Friday, I’ll just take $50 out of the till and be like, ‘What do you need?’” Tracy says before adding. “We’re just trying to look after this area as much as we can.”
With Tracy and James both passionate about good food and good company, James in particular honed his skills making his way through university while working at Aireys Inlet’s A La Grecque and ensures his passion lies in good customer service.
Pair their passions with the fresh, expansive menu and Pakington Cottage is a venue that’s good for you and the community to eat at.
Where: 359 Pakington St, Newtown
When: Mon-Sun 8am-3pm
Ph: 03 5229 1599
Written and photographed by Amanda Sherring