An iconic fish and chip shop in Tarrawanna has held a special place in the heart of the community for decades as a popular stop for the whole family to grab a bite to eat and see a familiar face.
But now after owning Tarrawanna Fish & Chips for 37 years, Vera Mitrevski and her husband Jimmy are about to hang up the frying basket and head into retirement.
“I feel very emotional to be honest,” Vera said. “I respect these customers like my own family because I’ve known them for many years, the kids grow up and we’re serving the third generation now.”
Vera and Jimmy took over the shop in the mid-1980s, a move that Vera said just made sense.
“I was working in a fish shop and it was all I knew anyway,” she said. “So I thought I might as well get the business and work together with my husband.”
Their experience and hard work has paid off, with the shop becoming a massive success and a staple for after-school snacks or Friday night dinners.
But it hasn’t all been easy, and after working around the clock for almost four decades, Vera and Jimmy are looking forward to a well-earned rest.
“Just being home, going on holidays, living a little bit of life,” Vera said. “When you own a business you’re tied up everyday, all day, from morning to night, so I’m looking forward to having a little bit of time to go out with friends and having a bit of a social life.”
There’s been an outpouring of support from the community who have been sharing their own stories and experiences from throughout the years and the incredible impact the couple have had on their lives.
“I’m very thankful,” Vera said. “They’re all nice people and I’ve been very lucky with our customers.”
Vera and Jimmy have left big shoes to fill for new owner Cheng Te Heung, who officially takes over next month.
“We’re feeling a little bit of pressure,” Cheng said. “Vera has done a really good job, she’s treated her customers very well. It’s all the small details, she’s very kind.”
Cheng grew up in Wollongong before moving to Sydney for work, but is now excited to return back to the Illawarra for a new joint venture with his sister.
“We are hoping that we can maintain the standard by Vera and then hopefully we can start growing and getting to know the community,” he said.
He has been working alongside Vera and Jimmy in recent days to help make the transition easier and has seen first-hand how special the business is for the people of Tarrawanna.
“I think it’s about the community, I think a lot of customers just want to have that interpersonal connection with Vera especially,” Cheng said. “I think that is something that you can’t take away.”
But when it comes to creating a legacy within the community, Vera said the secret to her success has been simple.
“Just be nice to people, be honest and give whatever you’ve got.”
Vera and Jimmy will officially retire at the end of this month.