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"I wouldn't do it again": Orange business owner's frank interview

June 25, 2022

Stock image.

By Peter Holmes

Orange small business owner Ophelia Heffernan is refreshingly frank when talking about her 18 months in one of the most potentially lucrative and unforgiving industries - hospitality.

Heavily pregnant, she is selling Herba Salata, the salad bar opposite Harris Farm in the Orange Arcade.

A white collar worker, she was like many who daydreamed about opening a little bar, café or eatery. Unlike most, she went ahead and did it.

“People do have that dream,” she told The Orange News Examiner on Saturday afternoon.

Herba Salata salads. Facebook.

“I wouldn't do it again, but I shouldn't have done it the first time!” Heffernan added with a laugh. “I'm not a hospitality person … it was all a bit of a new venture for me. I wouldn't do it again, but I've learned an immense amount.”

Herba Salata sold salads including roasted broccoli salad with brown rice, cranberries, almonds with cashew garlic dressing; roasted carrots, quinoa, cranberries, slivered almonds and lemon tahini dressing; and potato salad with sweet potato, peas, onion, mint and creamy mayo dressing.

Bagels, wraps, toasties, coffee and sweet treats were also available.

Herba Salata salads. Facebook.

Without a cool room, the salads and other items were made fresh.

Heffernan said she “tossed and turned” over selling the business, and in some ways “would have loved to be able to continue, we’d done the hard yards and we’re getting out now when it gets easier”.

During her pre-hospitality career in management consulting she said “the golden rule was never touch food”.

“But it was really enjoyable. I had a great time doing it [and] it was about the most challenging time you could open a business.”

Ophelia Heffernan. Facebook.

She said meeting and chatting with customers was one of the highlights.

With her first child due in mid-July, and many businesses across Orange desperately short staffed, Heffernan knew there was no way she could continue to operate the business.

“I think what would work better was if you did it as a couple or with a business partner - it works well when you've got two of you, so that if you’re down on staff at least you’d have another person to share the load.”

She said the lack of local students, travelling backpackers and immigrants making Orange their home, when combined with people isolating due to Covid, were making life incredibly difficult for small businesses in the city.


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