Team play­ers raise the bar

High school sweet­hearts Brett and Michelle could well be called the Dy­namic Duo in hos­pi­tal­ity, as Moya Stevens dis­cov­ers

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

We are fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing a fam­ily venue with very good food at rea­son­able prices and we refuse to in­tro­duce poker ma­chines

Brett Marsh­man

When Brett Marsh­man and Michelle Fox met be­hind the start­ing blocks at the Mel­bourne’s Olympic Park swim­ming pool, it marked the start of a per­sonal and pro­fes­sional part­ner­ship which spans the decades.

Michelle was a Strath­more girl whose fam­ily loved the out­doors and the sur­name Fox fea­tures in Aus­tralia’s swim­ming and wa­ter polo records. Michelle ex­celled at swim­ming, be­ing Vic­to­rian State Cham­pion and a sil­ver and bronze medal­list at a na­tional level.

Brett, whose ath­letic pas­sion was run­ning, spent some time swim­ming, hence meet­ing Michelle at a swim meet when they were only 16 years of age. He was the na­tional ju­nior 1500m run­ning cham­pion and na­tional 400m se­nior and re­lay cham­pion.

“Our sport­ing ca­reers never re­ally reached fruition be­cause of our re­la­tion­ship as in those days there was no money in sport so we both had to work,” Brett said.

Brett went to Essendon Tech­ni­cal Col­lege and stud­ied Busi­ness Man­age­ment and Com­mer­cial Cook­ing and Michelle stud­ied of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tion work in­clud­ing book­keep­ing.

Brett’s first job was at the Red Ea­gle Pub in Al­bert Park and worked un­der a for­mer naval chef.

“He had worked on the Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia and I learned more from him in the 2½ years with him than I did in the next 25 years,” Brett said.

Michelle started work­ing in a stock bro­kers firm but by the mid ’80s was in a man­age­ment team work­ing with ho­tel re­ceivers where she learned much about fi­nan­cial man­age­ment in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.

“Of course the late ’80s saw in­ter­est rates rise dra­mat­i­cally and many ho­tels and restau­rants hit very hard times,” Michelle ex­plained.

In 1988 their only child, Jaye, was born and soon the cou­ple de­vel­oped a con­sul­tancy busi­ness, sav­ing restau­rants and ho­tels from fi­nan­cial doom.

“We were re­ally suc­cess­ful in this, par­tic­u­larly with our back­ground and train­ing,” Brett said.

It was ev­i­dent that as a team they had the hall­marks of po­ten­tial suc­cess to bought their own restau­rants and ho­tels in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions around Vic­to­ria.

“In 2008 we bought a fish and chip shop in Trar­al­gon in an ef­fort to take it a lit­tle easy,” Brett laughed, “but in 18 months our tak­ings went from $4000 a week to $20,000 a week.”

“A van had been parked across the road from the shop for about a week and even­tu­ally this guy came in and said he had been watch­ing our trade, made us a ridicu­lously good of­fer, so we sold.”

Af­ter a well-earned rest, an of­fer of man­ag­ing the Mt Baw Baw re­sort was made to Brett by the Vic­to­rian govern­ment and a con­di­tion of his ac­cept­ing the po­si­tion was that Michelle would be em­ployed as the as­sis­tant man­ager.

“It was prob­a­bly the most ar­du­ous job I ever had in my life with about 90 staff, a li­censed pub, two restau­rants, a kiosk and a gen­eral store,” Brett said.”

“Af­ter three years of man­ag­ing the re­sort, the food and bev­er­age tak­ings where higher than the lifts’ tak­ings which had never hap­pened be­fore.”

In 2012 the cou­ple bought a pub, in Mor­well, and ac­cord­ing to Brett and Michelle, it was a tough town in the midst of an eco­nomic down­turn.

“We changed the place from a drunks’ bar to a great place to eat and drink,” Michelle said, “and we re­sisted the in­tro­duc­tion of poker ma­chines which ended up be­ing a sell­ing point.”

So how did this cou­ple end up in Mossman?

“We have friends, Mark and Julie Collins, who were trav­el­ling through Far North Queens­land and Mark has a great pas­sion for old ho­tels,” Brett ex­plained.

“They stopped at the Ex­change to have a look, saw that an auction for the place was hap­pen­ing and he bought it.

“The place was derelict, but he poured money into it to get the doors open again, put man­agers in but it wasn’t re­ally work­ing. He con­tacted us and said that the place needed us to run it, so 18 months ago we took over.

“I was com­mut­ing up and back for a while and then Michelle joined me about 12 months ago,” Brett said.

“It is a fab­u­lous old ho­tel, built 121 years ago, with so much charm and his­tory,” Michelle said, “but it hasn’t been easy, Mossman be­ing a town of about 1800 peo­ple with three pubs and a bowls club.”

“We are fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing a fam­ily venue with very good food at rea­son­able prices and we refuse to in­tro­duce poker ma­chines.”

When asked about how they see Mossman’s fu­ture, both Brett and Michelle said they are ex­cited about the pro­posed Botanic Gar­den.

“The town has won­der­ful char­ac­ter which can be a tourism des­ti­na­tion in it­self with the sugar trains go­ing through the main street and the sugar mill,” Brett said.

Their son Jaye and his fi­ancée Bianca joined Brett and Michelle run­ning the ho­tel.

“And our job at the Ex­change is to pro­vide a safe place for peo­ple to have a good time,” Brett said.

Brett Marsh­man and Michelle Fox at the Ex­change Ho­tel. in­set: The ho­tel prior to the 1934 cy­clone

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