7 June 2024

Goulburn girl brings Tilba landmark back to life

| Marion Williams
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Sarah Fisse (right), pictured with her daughter Jay, is bringing Pam's Store back to life.

Sarah Fisse (right), pictured with her daughter Jay, is bringing Pam’s Store back to life. Photo: Marion Williams.

Born and bred in Goulburn, Sarah Fisse is reviving a Tilba landmark, Pam’s Store in Tilba Tilba. The store allows Ms Fisse to combine her philosophy of humble, honest food using local produce with her talent for cooking. She has been quickly embraced by the community.

Ms Fisse is from a family that loves food and cooking. She and her siblings learnt to cook from her parents who were part of the slow food movement in the 1980s and 1990s and grew their own food.

“They had really good cookbooks and we would sit around talking about what we were going to cook.”

Her mother, with some friends, started Fibre Designs at the Gulson Craft Village in Goulburn. They needed someone to help out in the cafe. That was the beginning of Ms Fisse’s cooking career.

When she moved to Sydney to study costume-making for production at Ultimo College she worked in cafes and kitchens including Snodgrass Catering Company. There she worked with “really great chefs” who taught her knife skills and to cook professionally.

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Ms Fisse and her young family moved to the Far South Coast in 2012 for a change of pace. Earlier this year she decided to take a new direction and spotted a casual position as a farmhand in Tilba. That led her to search for rentals in Tilba and to stumble upon the old store.

“I saw this and saw it was a business and thought I could utilise those skills I had learnt working in kitchens and cafes,” Ms Fisse said.

Sarah Fisse wants to source the store’s produce locally.

Sarah Fisse wants to source the store’s produce locally. Photo: Marion Williams.

She focuses on local produce and slowly but surely is sourcing it.

“It will take time for me to find people and for people to find me,” she says.

Suppliers include Tilba Real Dairy, Mystery Bay Kelp, Bateford Brown Eggs and a “really good supplier of good quality but affordable vegetables”. Alongside that is cafe food – toasties, soup, sweet treats and delicious Alfresco Coffee from Moruya. The focus, though, is bringing back the general store.

The cafe offering minimises waste from the grocery store.

“Reducing waste is something we all should do.”

She inherited her parents’ Fowlers’ jars so preserves will be on the shelves. She will also make take-home curries because they are versatile and can be made for vegetarians and vegans.

One thing for certain is everything in the store will be “humble and honest and hopefully what I cook here will inspire others to do the same at home”.

Ms Fisse is enjoying living in Tilba with her three children, three cats and two dogs and has been warmly welcomed into the community.

“Living here is about community,” she says. “I like that about here. There is a real sense of community.”

It reminds her of growing up in Goulburn and she finds herself drawn to places like Tilba.

One of the buildings across the road from Pam’s Store was originally a pub.

One of the buildings across the road from Pam’s Store was originally a pub. Photo: Cliff Hayden.

In that spirit, she hopes the community will use the large space in Pam’s Store for meetings and to hold fundraisers and events. That would be a return to when the store was run by Pam Hayden (nee Maher). Her stepson Cliff Hayden and his father moved in with Pam in 1972, two years after she took it on.

“It was a general store, petrol station, became a bottle shop and was the Post Office,” Mr Hayden says. “It was always busy here back in the 1970s and 1980s. It was the hub and the meeting place.”

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He says his father and Pam made a great team and people loved them.

“Everything they touched always kicked goals. Pam and Dad bought the Dromedary Hotel in Central Tilba and got that rocking too.”

Local historian Laurelle Pacey’s book Tilba Times Revisited says the store was originally built as a hall around 1879/80 and was used as a skating rink some nights in 1889. It was converted to the store in 1891.

Ms Fisse says she is purely the custodian of the building and its rich history.

“It isn’t about me. That’s why it isn’t called Sarah’s Store.”

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Ros Williams10:23 am 13 Jun 24

My Great Grandfather Josiah George Boxsell built the General Store in Tilba in the late 1800s. His father, my Great Great Grandfather Edward Boxsell settled in Tilba. They were cheese makers and started the cheese factory at Tilba.

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