Lismore Farmer Charlies new owners Caniaba couple Stewart and Salina Edmonds.
Lismore Farmer Charlies new owners Caniaba couple Stewart and Salina Edmonds.

Farmer Charlie's back in business

“WHAT should you call me? Call me Santa Claus,” joked Barry Edmonds yesterday, as he helped his son, Stewart, and daughter-in-law, Salina get Farmer Charlie’s in Lismore ready for its re-opening at the end of next week.

Of course, to the 40 staff, including many previous employees, who will work there he is, indeed, akin to the jolly man in the red suit.

He was the original owner of Farmer Charlies and, at the urging of staff and suppliers, has decided to step back in as appointed manager with Stewart and Salina as the new owners.

“My family started Farmer Charlies in Casino in 1991,” said Mr Edmonds, who now has a Farmer Pats in Brisbane and a large wholesale division at the Brisbane Markets.

“We then expanded the business to Ballina, Lismore and Grafton.

“It's a big thing coming back.

“We're going back to the grass roots. We spent 20 years of our life here.”

Mr Edmonds will be at the store for six months while it gets back on its feet and, from thereon in, will act as a consultant.

He's confident Farmer Charlies, Lismore, is already in good hands because his son grew up in the grocery business.

Stewart Edmonds, who also owns a macadamia farm with his wife at Caniaba, said: “I'll be back in a business I worked in from the time I was about 10 or 11.”

Staff at the iconic Northern Rivers grocery chain which, when it closed included stores in Lismore, Ballina and Evans Head, lost their jobs at the end of May after Farmer Charlies was put into administration.

Little more than a year before it had been saved from liquidation when Sydney company Barrobay Investments bought it.

Since the closure of the three outlets, Mark Roufeil, from administrators PPB, has been working around the clock to find a buyer to save the popular chain.

While the Lismore store had been sold to the Edmonds, he said he was still working on finding a buyer for the other outlets.

“I have interested parties but, while I am optimistic, it is premature to make an announcement,” Mr Roufeil said.

Mr Edmonds said the family had received a lot of calls from people asking them to resurrect the Lismore business “and we really felt for them”.

While it had “gone back a long way”, he said, they were determined to make it successful.

“Farmer Charlies will be offering fresh, quality produce at a good price because we will be dealing directly with wholesalers,” he said.

“We're also asking all the charities we used to support to re-approach us because it is important to us that we are involved with the community.

“But it's going to take time and we need the community to support us by coming back and spending some money.”

The Edmonds family will honour all the pay entitlements of the staff they re-employ.

Already the store has a new head butcher, Brad Holloway, who will re-employ five of the staff and, yesterday, other familiar faces were buzzing around the store refilling shelves.

Among them was former manager Daryl Smith, who will come on as assistant manager.

“I am thrilled,” he said. “It's back to the old days.”

He said it had been a tough few months before the business went under, and Mr Edmonds added: “He did a marvellous job keeping it all together.”

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