Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Back in Sydney

I arrived back in Sydney after having been away for six years, Mum and Dad picked me up at the  Circular Quay Wharf where the Fairstar was berthed and we went back to our home at Lane Cove - good to be home and to see my folks after so long, a pity Lyn was not there.

I settled in quickly as I had my own quarters downstairs with my own entrance and bedroom studio with bathroom. I found employment with 3M (Minnesotta Mining & Manufacturing) in their photocopying department selling photocopiers with the  job a car was supplied so I had transport.

Waiting outside Richard Hunts Mens Wear opposite Wynyard Station for a date to turn up, I ran into an old friend who I played rugby with, in juniors - Terry Rigney, who was also waiting for his girlfriend.The four of us decide to go out for dinner, which turned out to be the gestation of the Grape Escape Wine Bar and the end of my plans to return to Lyn and San Francisco.

Terry was the skipper of Gordon Rugby Club and was working with Legal and General selling life insurance, bored with his job as I was selling photocopiers, we decided to open a wine bar which were becoming popular in Sydney.

One of my friends from San Francisco John Campbell had opened a wine bar  in Cross Street, Double Bay, called "26 Cross Street", which was going gangbusters and he gave us contacts at Penfolds Wines which held their Australian Wine License. John subsequently was given 'his marching orders' to return to San Francisco and away from the temptations of being a bar owner or else, by his wife Cindy. We had meetings with Penfolds - Alan Whitsaid was the GM and was very encouraging who said they would support our application once we had located a site.

Finding a site was easier said than done, as we both came from the North Shore it was decided the location would be on that side of the harbour and the lower part, making the site accessible for  North Sydney CBD and also for the Eastern Suburbs. Also most of the people we knew lived on the North Shore and was the part of Sydney we felt comfortable about opening a wine bar.

Several sites were looked at over a period of six months around Milsons Point and North Sydney and dismissed due to restrictions by Council or site.We eventually found a site in Blues Point Road, MacMahons Point which was appropriate. It was a double fronted corner location and had room for expansion if the business warranted.Walking distance from North Sydney CBD and just over the bridge, so accessible for the city and the Eastern Suburbs.

This was where we decided to 'hang our hat'. Next step were to raise funds - for fit out and opening,obtain council and licensing permits. I approached  another Rugby mate, Ian Letts from the Eastwood Club, the club I used to play with before my overseas adventures. Ian came on board and it was decided he would become a silent partner and inject capital and Terry and I would be working partners with equities of a third each.
As often in business changes occur, Ian had to re allocate his intended capital allocation into his own business which was steel, so we had to quickly find another partner. This was not difficult as we had done some hard yards.

We had found the site, Penfolds had agreed to transfer a dormant license from Palm Beach and we looked confident in our council application.Terry approached Jack Moss from the Gordon Club who came onboard and his son Warwick, who played rugby with Terry  became his surrogate.

With the grand sum of $15,000.00 in the bank, approvals by councils and licensing courts,lots 
of enthusiasm and brawn we took posession of 139-141 Blues Point Road, McMahons Point.

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