Rising above the floods

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Excitement brewed for Brittany Robinson as she opened the doors to her very first business in Maryborough on December 1, 2021.

The 24-year-old had plenty of experience working in cafes previously but decided it was the right time to take a risk and put her entrepreneurial skills into her own business.

That’s when Concord Street Coffee was born, named after a street in England where unforgettable memories were made while living with her adored sister for five years.

“It was my home away from home and I have a lot of great memories from that time, so it was fitting,” Brittany said.

The space on Adelaide Street was just as she had envisioned; cosy, friendly, and inviting with a really “chill” vibe where customers could just relax in a quiet space with their favourite brew and home-made sweet treats, which the Maryborough community had really embraced.

But just as Brittany was getting to know her regulars, the unthinkable happened!

Only six weeks later in January 2022, the first of the catastrophic floods hit Maryborough.

Emergency services issued warnings for Maryborough, with residents forced to seek higher ground or evacuate as the Mary River reached 10 metres, breaking the flood levy.

In the town’s CBD, 30 buildings were affected, with one of those being Brittany’s newly opened café.
“That first flood was just a whirlwind on emotion,” Brittany said.

“I felt so panicked! We are lucky that we only live a few minutes’ drive away so my husband (Benjamin) and all our friends and family came with a trailer and packed up what we could.

“There was still quite a lot of damage to the furniture and stock, signs and things like that.”

A multitude of helpers came to the young business owners aid and, along with State Government Disaster Relief, Brittany was able to get back on her feet, clean up and reopen.

Still in good spirits, Brittany wiped the slate clean and started from scratch.

Tragically, in what must have felt like ground hog day for Brittany and so many Maryborough businesses, it was only six weeks later that the CBD was once again flooded.

This time, The Mary River reached its highest level since 1898 and peaked at 10.3 metres in the Maryborough CBD.

Brittany said while the council did a tremendous job of utilising the flood levee to save many surrounding businesses, unfortunately the café’s location on the other side meant it was always going to be inundated.

Yet, Brittany said she felt a sense of calm, going through the same motions they had done only weeks before.

The trailer was packed, stock and equipment were moved and then they waited.

As the water receded in early March and the clean-up began yet again, it was clear that this flood would go down in Maryborough’s history books.

“This flood was quite significantly higher than the last and unfortunately we had to gut the whole shop.”

Despite this and with the unwavering support of her husband, Brittany is still in good spirits and has fought hard to keep her dream business alive.

“Natural disaster is all I’ve ever known since opening so it’s just a case of cleaning up and starting from scratch.

“People have asked me if I’m going to move but I love this space; it’s everything I wanted and I’m here to stay.

“We’ve done it once (cleaned up) and we’ll do it again and hopefully we won’t see another flood for many years to come.”

The doors are now open once again, with Brittany crediting the surrounding business community, financial assistance from a local church and friends and family for bringing her dream business back to life.

“Everyone has just been so supportive, especially in our little alley where I am.

“A very big thank you to all my family; there were my main support, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

“It would have been a very lengthy process.”

Brittany said the one thing she looks forward to most in the future in “consistency”.

“With opening and closing so many times in the first three months of the business, I would just get used to seeing the regulars and then we’d close again.

“I’m excited to build consistency and look forward to welcoming everyone back.”

So, if you’re feeling like a coffee and want to support local businesses who are working hard to fight back after the floods, be sure to head to Concord Street Coffee at Shop 4/258 Adelaide St, Maryborough.