Women in Business : Julie Berry

Cafe owner Julie Berry would rather be at the Silver Star

Cafe owner Julie Berry would rather be at the Silver Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The steaming raspberry and white chocolate muffin is crumbling off my fingers as I try to shovel it into my mouth without drooling.

It’s a busy morning at the Silver Star Café in Port Hedland’s lush West End and the carriage is all chatter and clinking crockery.

Café owner Julie Berry sits opposite me, waiting for me to throw the first question at her about the business, but she’s going to have to wait a tad longer.

I have a muffin to finish.

Last crumb done and dusted and Ms Berry still smiling, I get down to my business.

“Everything we do here is cooked fresh on our premises,” she says.

“It’s a small kitchen but we put out lots of yummy food.

“We change our specials daily and I pretty much cook what I feel like cooking for the specials.”

Yesterday she baked New York cheesecake and before that, passionfruit melting moments.

“We generally have a morning tea special and at lunch we normally have a couple of specials on top of the menu,” Ms Berry adds.

For those who might not have noticed it yet, yes, the Silver Star is an actual train carriage.

It sits alongside Port Hedland’s FORM run Courthouse Gallery and Ms Berry mentions it began its rail life in 1930s Saint Louis.

“Watching the train being lowered into the gardens was pretty amazing actually.”

She opened in late October 2010 and her journey has been an express ride since.

“When we originally opened, we were five days a week for the first few months and then I decided there was a need to open Mondays and Tuesdays.

“We haven’t looked back,” Ms Berry comments.

Ms Berry brings a colourful culinary history to the Silver Star, which included a cupcake business in Sydney, “when cupcakes suddenly became really cool again,” corporate events work with Westfield and then catering in Port Hedland when she arrived four years ago.

However, the shift from “on the side” ventures to owning a business was a massive one.

“For the first three or four months, it was full on and, quite simply, terrifying,” Ms Berry muses.

“It’s always easy to say what you think you can do, but when you actually do it, you have to prove yourself.”

The menu evolved from what she’d been taught by her parents.

“It was putting my heart into it, into family food and things that I loved, but other people may not have.”

She credits the business’ success to a variety of reasons, including an “I think I can, I know I can” approach.

“The Silver Star offers something unique in town, which is just what people are after.

“It’s fresh food, it’s a beautiful atmosphere and people feel comfortable here.”

Ms Berry laughs that customers have been known to wander out without paying, only to return in haste saying they felt so relaxed, they forgot.

From her perspective, encouragement from local women has been a huge help too.

“When I first started I had amazing support from a lot of very well known businesswomen in the area who did everything they could to help me along and teach me.”

Ms Berry believes this female network is stronger here than in the cities.

“Everyone was really keen to see me succeed and still all these really amazing women come to the train and ask how it’s going; they’re all holding my hand.”

Whilst customer service can be lacking in the industry, employing lovely wait staff has been her priority too.

“The service is beautiful here; we all really like each other and have a good time, which is reflected in the feel of the place.”

Ms Berry has added a great new chef and a talented, trained barista who’s come from Melbourne.

Now with the evening meal changed from tapas to a full a la carte service, more ideas and possibilities are on the cards.

“This would really be quite a beautiful setting for a wedding,” Ms Berry beams.

“We could definitely cater to that.”

In the meantime, a former waitress from Holland began carrying a sign during her travels which read, “I’d rather be at the Silver Star” and there’s a competition in the wings regarding this slogan.

“What we’ve decided to do is try and encourage people wherever they go to send a photo of themselves with these words too.”

As people bring the photos in, staff will put them up on the wall.

“It will also mean our regulars will become part of the train, because their photos will be up inside as well.”

The Silver Star is on track for continued success, which means another busy year for this businesswoman.

So it’s time for me to buy another muffin and choof.

Julie Berry has a train to drive.

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