When Brigadier Sue Melotte contemplated her retirement, the ACT wife approached her with all the planning and precision that came to her to good use as the Director General of Logistics Systems for the Department of Defense.
She knew that whatever she would choose had to be a passion; a project that would challenge her, but not consume her.
âI had been looking for some time to buy something along the coast, looking for opportunities,â says Sue.
âI had really given up when a friend spotted this property – an old factory – in Moruya. I said, “What do you mean it’s a factory?” Then I found out it was a heritage building, and I love old things.
The property in question was Cheddar House, at Hawdon Street, Moruya.
The original site of the Moruya Co-operative Dairy Society Factory, built by the Ziegler brothers for 800 pounds and opened with a celebratory ball on November 16, 1892. It turned out to be a great success.
A brand new factory was built in the early 1930s, with the modern machinery and equipment needed to cope with the additional milk supply and district needs at the time.
It went through a rough patch in the 1950s when much of its supply was diverted to the new Streets ice cream factory, but survived that and continued in business until 1971.
The property was used for cheese storage until the late 1980s, but eventually became a family home and then a bed and breakfast before Sue bought it in 2017.
âThe house has a very European feel,â she says. âThen you walk in and back to a factory from the 1950s and 1960s.
âIt was very run down. I spent 12 months stabilizing the damage on the roof.
Sue also hired Malua Bay architect Paul Dolphin to prepare a heritage conservation management plan.
âI wanted to use her story to illuminate her future,â she says. âI wanted to make sure I didn’t compromise on the story; I wanted to build on it. “
Sue’s dream is to open an artisan catering factory.
âI want to start cheese production again because I love it,â she says. âBut if you’re a one-stop shingle business, it’s hard to be sustainable, so I’d like to add a microbrewery and a cafe to it.
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âThe Moruya cheese factory was the most technologically advanced cheese factory on the Australian east coast in its day. It was sustainable and self-sustaining. I would like to capture the old philosophy they had at the time.
The current Development App (DA) with Eurobodalla Shire Council is about modifications and additions to create multi-unit housing as well as a local catering and craft drinks room, creating the Moruya Craft Factory to showcase the local history, products and talent.
But the project is not without its detractors, two neighbors worrying about noise, increased traffic, parking and pollution linked to the cleaning of the brewery’s tanks. Sue believes all of these concerns were addressed in the new ad package submitted just before Christmas 2020.
âThe board said this is the first time it has received more positive than negative submissions,â Sue said. âThe local community has been fantastic.
The first stage of the project would see the development of the Quantum Brewery and the GraniteTown CafÃ©. The second step is for the production of cheese. Besides being a local place, Sue would love to see Cheddar House reborn as a tourist attraction.
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âI already run a wine club there – Artisan Vinum,â she says. âI wish I could offer simple pizzas and platters – locally produced food with cheese in the front and center.
âAll the by-products would be reused. My partner creates soil supplements. We are partnering with a local farmer to use the spent grains and hops to create natural soil supplement. The whole operation would be fully sustainable.
With military precision, Sue developed an ambitious timetable for development.
âIf I can get board approval within four weeks and we can get the exchanges I need, I would like to think that the first step could be up and running by the end of the year,â says -it.
âMy experience is logistics and business management. I also happen to like beer and cheese.