With two cafes (Avenues and Home Base by NE Food), a coffee/kitchen/bar (THE DISPENSARY) and catering business on the go, it’s just as well the Connors are a big family. Together mum Lyn, sons Damien and Adrian and their wives Madeleine and Vanessa bring an impressive list of complementary skills to the table.
“My brother Adrian and his wife Vanessa share a passion for food and are the creatives in the company. Qualified chefs, they keep us on top of industry changes and on-trend with menus,” says Damien.
“Our mum Lyn is an experienced company director and brings a conservative business approach and my wife Madeleine is our Commercial Manager.
“It’s a luxury having a qualified accountant helping us juggle what makes sense from a business perspective with offering that point of difference hospitality venues rely on.”
As for Damien, he provides “the middle ground between Lyn’s conservative approach and Adrian’s creative flair”. And then there’s their famous singer/songwriter husband and father Graeme Connors…
“Dad’s knowledge of wines is second-to-none, which is why you will find an eclectic cellar at THE DISPENSARY that rivals the capital cities,” Damien says.
“When he has time off from touring, he loves to come in and sample some of the new additions to the menu. Never be afraid to come say hey – he’s very approachable… especially if you have a cigar!”
With their establishments operating Monday to Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, at least one of the Connors are on the premises at all times.
“Having the family dynamic of our mother, brothers and sister in-laws all working together is fun. We all get along really well,” Damien says.
“You will find Vanessa at a booth in THE DISPENSARY writing a new menu with Adrian and our Executive Chef Matthew Pasquale, Madeleine auditing contracts, working on reports or running payroll, Lyn running around after everyone doing 20 different jobs or helping with the grandkids and me trying to make sense of Adrian’s next bright idea,” Damien laughs.
“The best thing about working with family is being able to disagree but then five minutes later move on to the next task at hand… no grudges held.”
With the potential for “a couple more” locations for the cafe brand this year, and a focus on growing the NE Events catering brand, the Connors look set to get even busier still.
“Continuing to offer our employees opportunity for growth and experiences for our customers they’ll remember is what drives us as business owners and a family. We want to continue to grow because the bigger we are, the more opportunities we can offer,” Damien says.
“We all have the same goal in mind – to ensure Mackay locals have a choice of what they want to experience in a day/night out.”
Both Lyn and Graeme were born in Mackay and returning there after the release of Graeme’s album North was a lifestyle choice they wanted for their five sons.
“We are all so fortunate to have grown up in Mackay and call it home,” Damien says.
“We enjoy fishing, skiing, being on the water and socialising in general…
Where else would you rather be?!”