TWENTY-ONE years is a fair innings,” owner of the Fireside Inn Julian de Cseuz joked, “I think it is time to let somebody take over with a bit more vigour.”
Mr de Cseuz and his wife Sue were just the second people to ever purchase the iconic local restaurant since it opened almost 80 years ago and they have spent the last two decades preserving its reputation. Now the pair is ready for a well-earned retirement.
The business has been purchased by local lady Julie Harrington and her American partner James Booth. While the prospect of handing over the reins hasn’t been easy, Mr de Cseuz says he has been able to rest assured knowing the Fireside would be in “excellent hands”.
Both Mr Booth and Ms Harrington have vast experience in hospitality.
When Ms Harrington graduated from Goulburn High School she wanted to see the world. So at the age of 21 she left the Lilac City behind to travel and, for the most part, waitressing was her meal ticket. She has also floor managed a number of restaurants and has experience in marketing.
When he was in his early 20s, Mr Booth managed his parents’ commercial bakery in Washington DC, which distributed biscuits throughout three states, and helped oversee their retail bakery.
He has also worked in a number of different restaurants over the years, including in Washington DC’s prestigious Old Ebbitt Bar and Grill.
The pair was looking for a business venture and said when the Fireside came on the market, it was an opportunity too good to pass up.
“It is such a beautiful building and it is a place I have always known,” Ms Harrington explained.
“My family has had various dinners here over the years for different events. So, I knew the restaurant and I knew its reputation and I knew as a community member growing up that it was always well respected and it was also quite unique.”
The couple has big plans for the future.
They plan to expand on the restaurant’s iconic status and use it to capture the tourist market.
They will rip out the garden in the courtyard to expand the outdoor seating capacity, and serve cocktails in the area.
The Fireside has two apartments upstairs, which overlook Belmore Park. The pair will convert these into boutique accommodation suites and rent them out to travellers.
The couple also plan to add dinner trade on Sunday nights, open a coffee shop in the side store, where the nail salon is currently and expand their business to include catering.
However, when it comes to the menu they have no plans for an overhaul.
Instead, they will retain all the current dishes and work closely with head chef Steve Norton, who has been with the restaurant for 21 years, to add a few new ones.
“(Steve) knows what the market likes in Goulburn. So, we’re trusting the judgment of Julian and Sue as well as our chef who has been here forever,” Ms Harrington said.
“We don’t want to upset the formula which makes the restaurant work. However, I will be listening to suggestions of people about what they would like to see in the restaurant and where possible we will implement that.”
Mr and Mrs de Cseuz don’t have any elaborate plans for their retirement other than to take it easy.
They will miss the Fireside Inn but say they won’t be strangers.
They plan to drop in for a meal every now and again.
In their 21 years, the couple has always been loyal to their staff and hold fond memories.
However, the customers have made it special.
“We’ve had great customers,” Mr de Cseuz said.
“We’ve had weddings here and some of the customers we’ve had over that period of time have kept coming back… we’ve seen their children come back and their grandchildren come back. It has just been a great occasion.”