by S Lowe 5THE FM’s newsonline wattlerangenow
The 2015 MBCA Hall of Fame Inductee Fosters Foodland Pty Ltd received a standing ovation from the 245 strong crowd attending the MBCA Cabaret Awards ceremony on Saturday 24th July at the Civic and Arts Centre. The Foster family business has been operating in firstly in Rendelsham and then Millicent for a total of 68 years and has employed in excess of 540 people over that time, spanning three generations of the family..
This award is awarded to a business operating within the Millicent district which has been under local ownership by the same owners or family for more than 25 years. Elements considered by the judging panel are the longevity of business and its success in competing in the market place over a prolonged period. Consideration is also given to the business’ commitment to its community.
Brian and wife Cathy accepted the award presented by Mayor Peter Gandolfi on behalf of the Wattle Range Council who sponsor this MBCA Award. Brian said it was overwhelming, very much appreciated and thanked the community for their support over the years and the MBCA for the award. He said he was thankful for good family and good staff over the years that had been such a large part of the business.
The Foster family business first began operating in Rendelsham in 1947 as Foster’s Groceries when the late Mr Bob Foster and his wife Beryl bought Poole’s Store.
Mr Bob Foster’s family was a pioneering one; his great-grandfather Robert arrived in SA in 1849 from Great Kendale Farm in the East Riding of Yorkshire and farmed his properties at Callendale, Lake Eliza and Lake St Clair in the SE before Bob;s grandfather took up land at Kendale, east of Rendelsham; so began in 1879, the long Foster association with this district.
Bob was at Rendelsham Primary School and was just 8 years old when his father died in 1930; he later attended Millicent High School and then did an apprenticeship at the Adelaide Stock Exchange for some years before returning to the family farm which his mother had been managing. Ofcourse growing up in Rendelsham, chicory was part of that farm life.
In October 1946, Bob married Beryl Humphries of Rendelsham a year before taking over AA Poole’s grocery and farm supply business – so began his Rendelsham store. Many will remember the Red Truck, Bob’s Morris Commercial, making the trips to Mt Hope with deliveries as such to Arch McArthur, Alf Braham or Ken Stuckey of Murtonga. Later, Keith Humphries, Bob’s brother-in-law assisted, both at the shop and with those deliveries.
In the early 1960’s Bob expanded his business to Millicent with his purchase of the Serv-Wel store in George Street and in 1971 he built the present Foodland Store in Kentish Place which was originally called Fosters Discount Foods until becoming Fosters Foodland in 1971. It was one of the earlier Foodland stores with only about 10 in operation at that time. He continued to operate the Rendelsham store in conjunction with the Millicent store for 2 years. Bob had the respect and friendship of professional staff throughout his business life.
Bob used to joke that Millicent was a small town just on the out skirts of Rendelsham. Brian said it was just like that, because everything he ever wanted he could get at Rendelsham or Southend.
“Home was a grocery store and ‘we often sampled the stock’, until we were caught.” Brian said.
The groceries used to be brought to Rendelsham by train which ran through the middle of the town, but once the train stopped running in 1956, we had to get the groceries from the train station in Millicent. After 1960 we had to go to Mt. Gambier to collect the groceries because the train stopped altogether. Fresh bread would come from Millicent three times a week.
There were three stores operating in Rendelsham, Fosters Groceries, Pooles Post office who also sold work clothing, shoes and fuel and just down the road was Carthew hardware store.
Brian said his father Bob used to have a grocery and fuel run to Mt Hope and Hatherleigh twice a week. People would phone the orders to the shop and Bob would fill the orders and do the grocery run in his red truck. He remembers the store selling everything in bulk; biscuits, flour, salt and dried fruit would come in a big wooden box and sugar came in 70lbs hessian bags. Brian’s sister Pam said one her memories is the stock-taking which was very different to how it’s done now. Among her memories are many trips she made with her dad in the truck on deliveries.
In 1975 Brian became manager of Foster’s Foodland and continues in that role today. Brian and Cathy’s son David joined the business several years ago.
Fifteen years ago Foster’s introduced a training scheme enabling many students to gain SACE entry points into University which they otherwise could not have done.
Cathy said of her father-in-law. “To run a successful business over almost 68 years, inspire a second and third generation to continue the business and employ over 540 people during that time is a great achievement for one man in Millicent.”
Brian said today, “a business is only as good as the people you have working for you and we have good people working for us.”
“It was particularly good to see so many young people in the awards. There are a lot of good young people we’d like to employ but again there are not enough jobs to do this but we enjoy watching the young ones we do employ, change and grow in confidence, and it seems to only take a few weeks before that change is evident.”
Foster’s Foodland is a successful, Millicent based business of 68 years, spanning three generations of the same family, a worthy recipient of the MBCA’s Hall of Fame Award. with the judges saying their decision was a ‘no-brainer and this recognition is long over-due’……………and they still wheel your groceries out to your car.