Home' LOTL : May 2004 Contents Trace and Roe themselves pioneered one of Melbourne's
first organic café-delis, The Green Grocer. Friendly, stylish and
groundbreaking, it was a community gathering place for the
groovy and the health conscious. In the light of their past
enterprise, Wildbite's success is not surprising. But its hard not
to be impressed when you realise that nine years ago, Trace
could hardly lift her own head, let alone a 20k delivery of flour.
The day after Trace's 33rd birthday bash, she felt a little
crook and put it down to the night before. A few days later she
felt bad enough to go to the doctor. "Trace called Roe at The
Green Grocer," said Rebecca Jones, now a circus performer,
who used to work there. "I remember her face literally going
gray. She ran through the shop saying 'Trace has got leukaemia'."
The shock is still evident on Rebecca's own face. "I couldn't
believe it. Trace has always been so happy-go-lucky, and
active. She lived healthily, too."
Peter Gordon felt gutted when he heard. He dropped
everything to support Trace. One day he was cooking for
aristocrats at a private members club in Mayfair. The next, he was
in Melbourne, making Spanish omelettes and flourless orange
cakes for lesbian mothers at The Green Grocer. Trace spent the
next months in and out of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, having
chemotherapy, with Roe nursing her daily. "Roe was so gracious
in answering everyone's questions about the leukaemia," recalls
Rebecca. "Not once did she go 'Fuck off, I am just so tired'. Her
generosity helped because she was our bridge to Trace."
Trace's odds were not great, but an agonising bone
marrow transplant could improve them. The good news was
that Peter was a perfect match. The bad news was that Trace
could easily die in the operation. It was the hardest decision
of her life.
"I am not into cosmic stuff, but one night I dreamt I was
on top of a mountain with Pete. Golden light from his body
was coursing through mine. I knew I would be okay."
A nurse from the hospital joked that next life she was
coming back as a lesbian because she had never seen such a
supportive community. Roe was with Trace every step of the
way. Trace never ate a hospital meal, because friends brought
organic meals every day. Complimentary therapists donated
treatments. Others organised a fundraiser which helped The
Green Grocer pay its staff.
Rebecca reckons the couple creates community around
them through their welcoming inclusiveness. They certainly
created their own light at the end of the tunnel by planning a
Kombi trip around Australia. Trace pasted photos of their
dream around her hospital room. The moment doctors gave
the OK, they were off.
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On the way back they found themselves in Byronshire,
where, seven years before, they first encountered each other
while holidaying on a friend's farm. "I remember thinking, I
am in love with this woman, and I have just met her. I had been
in lots of relationships, but I had never felt like that," says Roe.
This time, they found an idyllic cottage in the forest, and
Trace got a job at the Channon Tea house, where the local bush
food association had their meetings. "They talked a lot about
lemon myrtle but no-one was value adding it," Trace noticed.
She experimented with lemon myrtle shortbread, and when Roe
pined for Melbourne, Trace was propelled into action. "I didn't
want to return to cold old Melbourne. I was just getting back
into surfing." Trace suggested they set up a wildfood biscuit
company. "Most bushfoods are exported. Australians have
traditionally seen bushfood as a bit too 'Ozzie Ozzie'. It's good
for tourists but not for us. I said, 'Let's make them organic, but
let's target Australians. Anyone who would eat a Tim Tam could
give a macadamia or wattleseed bikkie a go."
Trace was excited, but also terrified. "The last time I
created a business, look what happened." Roe responded to
Trace's vision with the faith and confidence her partner
needed. They leased a commercial kitchen from a local
bakery, but domestic cooking does not translate simply into
commercial product, and the couple had no formal training.
"Ingredients react differently in large quantities. You can't
just multiply everything by 500," explains Trace.
Their first attempts at using the kitchen turned into an
Alice in Wonderland nightmare. When they tried to blend
their ingredients in the commercial mix master, their mixture
was so small the beaters didn't even reach it. "We looked for
a little bowl, but they were all the size of a table!" laughs Roe.
"It was hilarious," agrees Trace. "We burnt a few things, but
eventually produced our trial batches. Friends of ours had a
ceramic stall at the Bangalow markets, and we plonked it on
the table thinking: 'What if everyone hates it?'"
They sold out, and the next day a real estate agent called
wanting a packet of biscuits for each of the twenty houses the
agency was selling.
Despite Wildbite's national success, they still sell at
Bangalow markets, and are loyal to local suppliers. They are
not seduced by the dreams of international expansion and
megabucks that snare so many entrepreneurs into
workaholism. "At The Green Grocer we had to work six days
a week. We love going to work but Wildbite is part of our
lives, not all of it. The most important things to us are our
health, our relationship and our community."
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