Marmonie Altman pointing to the flood level in her shop BooCo, which refers to bamboo and coconuts.
Marmonie Altman pointing to the flood level in her shop BooCo, which refers to bamboo and coconuts. Karin von Behrens

Dream business goes under in flood

EVER since she was a child Marmonie Altman dreamed of owning her own business. It is a dream she finally achieved, opening BooCo Eatery on Keen Street in Lismore, eight days before the flood. The name, BooCo, refers to bamboo and coconuts.

Ms Altman got her start in business when she was roughly eight years old, in the Philippines. It was the equivalent of a lemonade stand outside her house in the city of Caloocan, selling drinks, mangoes and vegetables.

"As I grow older I sell different things and it makes me happy,” she said.

In March 2012 Ms Altman moved to Lismore with her husband.

"I said where are the people?”

Ms Altman secured herself a job in a nursing home in Goonellabah and worked there for five years before deciding it was time for a change.

"I always wanted to have a business and then I said 'If I'm gunna have a business, I do the food business, because people eat.”

Ms Altman had already owned a similar business in the Philippines.

"I hired a cook to cook the food, but when she's not feeling well or happy it affects the taste of the food.”

So Ms Altman decided to study Commercial Cookery herself, at Wollongbar Tafe.

"Then we found this (shopfront) on Gumtree for sale, so we rang them straight away. I didn't even know where the place was but it was so cheap that I said well, I want that.”

The Altmans bought the shop which was previously an Italian Trattoria in December 2016. It took three months to prepare it: "painted everything and then, you know, flood.”

"Bit it's OK, I mean, we had flood back in the Philippines, similar to what we just had last year and the bad thing is, lots of people died from the flood, as in heaps. Especially the homeless. Because it was similar to what happened here. We didn't know it was going to come at that time, so we were not prepared.” Ms Altman said.

"Compared to what happened (there) I'm so lucky. I only lost the shop. I mean it's not life, that's hard to bring back.

"It's still a bit sad because...too much effort and over the night, it's gone.”

Ms Altman's co-workers from the nursing home were very helpful. "They give me money, offer our laundry, because in our house...was also flooded underneath,” she said.

The business and underside of the house weren't the Altmans' only flood casualties.

"My husband's car was drowned in the flood and after that it's hard to find a car around Lismore because lots of people were buying cars,” said Ms Altman.

"Then, I think one or two weeks after the flood, while we were fixing the place, I parked my car in front of the Bazaar...because we were here painting. Then I heard a bang, then I looked outside and my car is in the middle of the road and it's like - a smash. I feel like why this is happening?”

"I was really sad because it's hard for me without the car, because I'm trying to fix this and get it ready so I can re-open again - without a car.

Ms Altman also had a five year old child to look after.

The Altmans were lucky to be able to access the Natural Disaster Relief Scheme Grant for Small Business to buy a new fridge, light, stove,"like everything,” for the business.

"Biztax helped me, they wrote a letter telling the government,” she said.

It took one month to get up and running again but looking at the business now there is no hint of these difficulties visible, just the delicious smell of sizzling meat.

"He wants his burger dead, as in dead dead,” Ms Altman jokes.

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