reinventing a special highway town
Woodburn NSW is a charming riverside town with which is about to embark on a transformation. When the Pacific Highway bypass is completed, it will bring peace to the riverside community. It will also bring challenges for the existing businesses, and opportunity for motivated and creative business owners to recreate their brand. To shift focus of trade from the short term ‘takeaway’, to entice the long term ‘come and stay’.
“It really is going to take the entire town to change the way it’s doing business,” says Daniel Simpson, manager of the Rod N Reel Hotel Motel in the centre of Woodburn. “The town is set up for takeaway, people grab something and keep going. There needs to be a revitalisation.”
Daniel is one of the businesses taking a proactive stance. Currently studying an MBA, the 38-year-old has worked in hospitality for 20 years and also runs the Hotel Illawong in Evans Head. He wants to see Woodburn businesses working together towards life after the bypass.
The Rod N Reel is a well-known lunch spot for drivers. With a bistro, bar, gaming area, accommodation and new play area, the complex is popular with families and is a gathering place for locals in the evening. On a Friday night, the bistro will serve about 150 meals while 15 staff work at the pub.
For the last 18 months, Daniel has overseen extensive renovations which will convert the venue from a pit-stop to a destination in itself.
“For us it’s about providing the right environment and making sure we have a really good product and service,” he says, positive about the pub’s “great future”.
The Rod n Reel Hotel has a long tradition of rising to the challenge. In 1954 the Hotel was destroyed by a cyclone, then rebuilt in 1956.
One of the region’s best assets – and something that will help weather the changes ahead – is its close community, Daniel believes.
“People look out for each other, you know everybody in the town. I think a lot of the community is looking forward to the bypass when there’s not 3000 b-doubles driving through the town every day,” he says, adding that the healthy work-life balance has boosted the area’s attraction.
“Ten minutes to the beach, right on the river – Woodburn’s going to be a great place to live.”