The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

You and Me

After 30 years running the Clayfield Markets and raising their sons, husband and wife team Carlo and Susan are selling up - but staying on

- Interview TAHNI TURPIN

I came to Australia as a 12 year old on a boat from a small village called Bivongi in Calabria, Italy, and settled in Sydney with my mother, Antonietta, and my sister Vera in 1970. My other four siblings, brothers Frank and Peter, and sisters Caterina and Nella were already in Australia. I lived with my brother Frank and his family for a few years and went to school at Narrabeen High on Sydney’s north shore. My brother owned a fruit and vegetable farm and it was through his contacts that my journey began. I started work for an independen­t fruit market before Harris Farm Markets in the early 1980s. Fast forward five years, I was working at their Ashfield store in Sydney and that’s where I first laid eyes on Susan. Later, I was looking after the business’s few stores in Brisbane with Susan, and in 1991 I bought the Clayfield Markets as it was then called, when David Harris moved back to Sydney.

It was a mutual agreement to stay on after we sold the markets back to them last year. Susan and myself have always had a great relationsh­ip with and kept in touch with the original owner, David Harris. It’s hard to express my passion behind the fruit and vegetable industry. It helped me over the years to become more involved in the community. With the success of the business came the privilege to help out organisati­ons such as Redkite, which helps children with cancer, through our mango auctions. (The first tray of mangoes is auctioned each year at Brisbane Markets to raise funds for charity). I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to do that.

Working at the Ashfield store where Susan was a checkout operator, we talked a lot during our tea breaks or at night when we had night shifts. Because Susan comes from an Arabic background, it was easier to get to know her because our lives were similar. It was Susan’s maturity and beautiful dark skin and hair that was attractive to me. Later, when there was an opportunit­y for us to move to Brisbane, we decided to stick together and took it. Our work dynamic is very easy for us. We set a foundation early on where we wouldn’t overstep our mark into each other’s roles. We bounced off each other well, we were always going to be on the same team.

Susan Lorenti, 52

Ascot, Harris Farm Markets manager

I grew up in Sydney with my sisters, Karen and Rhonda, and my brother Michael. I went to business college and learnt basic accounting and typing for a year. I got a job in an office, but for some extra cash, I got a second job Thursday night and Saturday for Harris Farm Markets at Ashfield, in 1986. This is where Carlo and I met. I was 18 and he was managing that store. He kept trying to sweeten me up, buying desserts for me from the bakery. Carlo is a kind and thoughtful person, he’s very sweet, very genuine. That was my first impression­s of him. He’s also very passionate.

I owned Clayfield Markets, now Harris

Farm Markets, for 30 years with Carlo and I was the gourmet buyer. Anything to do with food, I just loved buying it, eating it, and cooking it. I oversaw the running of the store and made sure we ticked the boxes of looking after staff and customers. The business became Harris Farm Markets on September 21 last year, but it continued to run as Clayfield Markets until we closed on December 1. They finished up their renovation­s and it opened again on December 10, rebranded and renamed back to Harris Farm Markets. We had a holiday for a month.

The only way you can succeed in a business for so long is you’ve got to have passion and that’s what Carlo had. He had passion for the business of fruit and vegetables, for the industry, for the community. He was crowned Mango King seven times (highest auction bidder) and that’s real passion for the charity we were donating to. Carlo is a great family man and father as well, we raised two boys during our time running the business, Julian, 22, and Jamie, 19. We were able to be really close with the boys when they were growing up because where we lived and where we worked, and where they went to school was all in a 2km radius. Working with Carlo for all these years has been amazing. The secret was he did his thing and I did mine. He looked after the fruit and vegetable and flower department and I looked after the deli, the groceries and checkout operators. We are a team.

Working with Carlo for all these years has been amazing. The secret to it was he did his thing and I did mine

It was Susan’s maturity and beautiful dark skin and hair

that was attractive to me

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