Reaping fruits of hard work
PASSION AND CLOSE-KNIT FAMILY TIES RECIPE FOR SUCCESS OF GREENDALE GROVE IN KIALLA WEST
A lot has changed since Rod and Anne Henry bought an olive grove in Kialla West nearly 20 years ago, but two things remain constant — unwavering support from their family business partners Jacqui Henry and Rob Crifo, and the cyclical nature of growing and preserving the ancient fruit.
When the Henry family took over the grove on the Goulburn Valley Hwy in 2002, it had 2000 trees, including Kalamata, Manzanillo, Verdale, Frantoio and Nevadillo varieties.
Rod and Anne’s daughter Jacqui was nursing in London at the time, and she returned home to put down roots — quite literally — with the family business, helping to plant 1500 more olive trees.
‘‘There was nowhere in Australia that did an olive grove, shop and restaurant — like a cellar door,’’ Jacqui says of the one-of-a-kind vision she and her parents shared for the business.
Greendale Grove opened in 2003, and Jacqui took ownership of the restaurant in 2005, allowing Rod and Anne to focus on growing the crop and running the olive shop.
That year chef Rob Crifo, formerly of Cellar 47, arrived for a job interview.
During that meeting, Rob found in Jacqui a new boss and soon-to-be life partner — he was the missing ingredient.
‘‘And he’s never left . . . It was just meant to be,’’ Jacqui says. ‘‘It’s perfect.
‘‘Rob and I work really closely together, basically 24/7.
‘‘We have our own little jobs but we come together really well.’’
The restaurant did a roaring trade and, after hours, the function space was booked backto-back for weddings — so Olivehouse Events was born.
But the constant switching between two types of service was exhausting and, after 10 years, when it became clear the demand for functions was constantly high, they closed the restaurant.
‘‘If you run a business, as everybody knows, you have to be there . . . you can’t leave it and just say, ‘Oh, we’ll be back tomorrow’,’’ Jacqui says.
‘‘We are the first ones here and we are the last ones to leave every single function.’’
When they’re not working — which isn’t too often — Rob can be found restoring vintage cars.
He has a particular soft spot for Mustangs.
‘‘I wish that paid him by the hour,’’ Jacqui says jokingly.
Jacqui loves being out in the garden, where beloved dog Benson was a constant companion until he passed away. He’s now buried in the grove.
Rod and Anne have a motorhome and are keen travellers when borders are open, heading up north to Hervey Bay when they get the chance.
Closer to home, Rod likes to take the boat out for a spot of fishing on Waranga Basin.
‘‘Everyone’s got to have some way to escape,’’ he says.
Meanwhile, the pandemic created time for the team of four to organise renovations they’ve dreamed of for years.
As with most things at Greendale Grove, they haven’t outsourced the grunt work.
Rod, Rob and Jacqui do the manual labour and Anne keeps the team organised, hydrated and well-fed.
Although repeated lockdowns have been bad for business, the tight-knit family remains optimistic about the future.
‘‘We’re just lucky with the situation we’re in — we’re a family, and we can work together,’’ Jacqui says.