Wollongong's Throsby wine bar overhauls menu to source wine from fire-affected vineyards

Cash injection: Throsby wine bar owners Erick Zavallos and Maddie Sullivan changed their menu last weekend to sell only wines from fire-affected businesses. Picture: Anna Warr.
Cash injection: Throsby wine bar owners Erick Zavallos and Maddie Sullivan changed their menu last weekend to sell only wines from fire-affected businesses. Picture: Anna Warr.

As Throsby wine bar owner Maddie Sullivan and her family drove back to Wollongong after New Year, leaving their bushfire-ravaged holiday spot of 30 years, she realised it wasn't just fire wreaking devastation on the South Coast.

"I just couldn't help but look at all the cars and what that was doing to all these businesses," she said.

"This was literally just all their customers walking out the door."

Desperate to help - and help fast, knowing how vital cash flow is for her own small business - Ms Sullivan devised a unique bushfire fundraiser, which has been hailed by Wollongong tourism and business leaders as one of the best examples of help during this tough time.

In a variation on the social media campaign #spendwiththem, which is encouraging people to spend money on products and services in fire-affected areas, Ms Sullivan and her husband Erick Zavallos decided to overhaul the wine bar's menu last weekend.

"We bought wine only from bushfire affected vineyards - [Adelaide Hills'] Vinteloper, who lost the entirety of their grape vines, and Cupitt's Estate in Milton, who were unable to trade at their busiest time of year," she said.

"We had 14 wines from those vineyards. This, for us, is a sustainable way to help other businesses, it's not just charity and it keeps the cycle going - and hopefully it also brings some awareness to our customers about these vineyards."

To make their money stretch even further, the couple set aside 50 per cent of their sales over the weekend, raising $2300 to spend on vouchers at businesses in fire-affected towns.

They plan to then split the vouchers, handing some out to hard hit people in the South Coast community, and using others for a raffle to raise more money.

"On Monday, we're heading back down the coast to spend thousands of dollars in the region - to wherever we get to with our two small children - which will inject some immediate cash into the area," she said.

"We know one great new cafe in Bawley Point, for example, which opened two weeks before Christmas, and they would have been hanging for a cash injection which just never came because everyone had to leave."

Illawarra Business Chamber director Adam Zarth said the Throsby's initiative was "exactly what businesses are asking for".

"We know these businesses can't wait until next December, or even until Easter, for visitation to return," he said. "We need immediate cash flow to these areas - so for people to be going in now and buying goods and services online, or to be buying vouchers, it's a way to pay it forward and is absolutely what they need right now."

This story Wollongong bar overhauls menu to source wine from fire-affected vineyards first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.