Tony Mills tears up when he talks about the people who helped he and his wife, Marguerite, establish a new business off the back of two devastating floods.
Tony’s business, Ocean Fisheries Worldwide, managed the wholesale seafood processing and distribution for 22 boats from their waterfront facility on Quay Street.
“In 2011 the flood waters came up and went back down, but in January 2013 everything was smashed to pieces and we couldn’t work. There was no income for a year. Boats couldn’t get up the Burnett River to unload,” Tony said. “We had to make the choice to either close the business altogether or give it our all. People we had never met, like plumber Ian Baldwin and service station owner Paul Wessel, were beyond generous and gave us a lot of what we needed to refit the shed.”
With little more than some refrigeration panelling, an automatic glass door, a display cabinet and cash register, the Mills family painted their beige processing facility red and diversified into retail. Red Shed Seafood was born.
Marguerite said they opened Red Shed Seafood four days before Christmas, not knowing whether anyone would show up. “We went to the markets and handed out flyers and put an advertisement in the newspaper,” she said. “To our surprise, there was a line of people there to support us. People actually thanked us for opening, and that support just continues to get bigger every year. We are so thankful to our loyal customers and the local restaurants we supply.”
Marguerite and Tony put their success down to four things: smiling knowledgeable staff, good old-fashioned service, a community-minded business culture and great product. They still manage five boats and all of their seafood comes in fresh from across Queensland, except their Tasmanian salmon, rock lobster from Western Australia and Pacific oysters from New Zealand. “When the principal of your daughters’ high school comes in, what you sell them has got to be right. If you wouldn’t eat it yourself, you shouldn’t be selling it,” Tony said.
Marguerite’s super simple seafood barbecue tips
The worst thing you can do to seafood is overcook it.
Pop your prawns on skewers and cook on the barbecue grill with a simple squeeze of lemon. They will only take a few minutes.
Place any fish fillet on baking paper. Splash with olive oil or a knob of butter, a generous squeeze of lemon and your favourite herbs (thyme is perfect). Fold the paper into a parcel around the fish and wrap in foil. Check after 10 minutes. Once the fish is white all the way through, it’s cooked.
Cut green Moreton Bay Bugs in half length-ways, splash with white wine and basil (ideally, place in the fridge a few hours). Place bugs meat-side down on the grill for five minutes.
Reel it in and visit Red Shed Seafood, 5E Quay Street, East Bundaberg. (07) 4151 7035