Some big hearts at Tas Mini Motors
LINDA Marks joked that Thursday was the first time her husband Malcolm had taken lunch off in decades.
But despite the trappings of the business' thirtieth anniversary - cake, coffee and conversation - it seemed to me he was actually still working pretty hard at the store the couple built.
Tas Mini Motors on Alfred Street has spent 30 years in the hands of the Marks', once owners of a vast empire of Honda bikes and quads. They once owned a pair of other stores across Western Queensland in Longreach and Blackall. The Longreach store was identical to the Charleville store to make it easier to find things.
The couple worked for the previous owner Tas Braid, who quit the job when he survived a bout of cancer. He wanted them to take over the business.
He was Tasmanian by birth, hence the lasting name. They took over on the first of September 1986. It was immediately very tough work.
"Malcolm's hours in the day were just horrendous. We went through a six-week period where the only time he saw the kids they were in bed at night when he got home and then they were still in bed in the morning when he went to work.”
Linda built their current store to be flood-proof more or less, with space upstairs to shift the bikes when rain is afoot (though they have to do it by hand over several days). Wisely so - there's a mark near the door where the water stopped in 1990.
She built the store first in cardboard - at scale! - so she could try it out, before turning to builders to make a lasting construction. She made just one change.
So why do they do it?
"We have customers that were customers 30 years ago, in that first 12 months, that are still our customers,” Linda said.
Malcolm had another explanation for the most enjoyable part of the job.
"I just love going out in the outback is the best part of it. The further you go the nicer the people seem to be.”