Junee locals are now well aware of the positive changes that are happening inside one of the town’s most iconic buildings, the Junee Hotel.
Emma and Brendon Reynolds are on a mission to restore the Riverina’s hotel history and to foster community and recently moved from Tarcutta to take on another grand old pub in need of some love.
“This new opportunity arose at the same time that the landlord decided to sell the Tarcutta Hotel, so we thought we’d like to try something different,” Emma explained.
The couple bought the lease in May and, after a transition period of a few months, threw their energies into reviving the 145-year-old building in the heart of Junee.
“The building dates back to 1878 and it’s one of Junee’s oldest,” said Emma.
“It was built by Mr. [Christopher] Crawley who later built Monte Christo Homestead, and it was here before the bank, the bakery or the post office.”
While the old Monte Christo building on the hill is known as Australia’s most haunted house, Emma doesn’t think any spooks are hanging around the pub.
The heritage features of the hotel with its classic verandahs and many rooms bring both charm and challenges to the task at hand.
“There had been workers staying in the accommodation and unfortunately it was pretty filthy and rundown with doors missing, holes in the walls and broken and missing tiles,” Emma said.
“So we’re taking it section by section and we’ve been repainting and Brendon is laying new carpet and we’ve updated the bathrooms and we really want to offer a welcoming place to stay for families or workers or people passing through.”
With temporary accommodation at a premium, the hotel has plenty to offer, with 28 rooms upstairs and a handful more on the ground floor.
“It’s an old-fashioned building, so facilities are shared, but there’s a big lounge area upstairs for a bit of tea and coffee and we’ve also got a massive garden with a big lawn for the kids to run around and play games and kick balls on the grass.”
As well as investing time and money and a lot of hard work in improving the aesthetics of the operation, the Reynolds are investing in the culture as well.
“We want to offer more than just a place to stay or have a meal,” Emma explained.
“For us, it’s all about the art of conversation. We want people talking and engaging with each other and not looking at their phones.
“We don’t have the pokies; we’ve got the barstools back and we get people to just sit and have a chat.”
According to Emma, the idea of hospitality extends to personal face-to-face service and using local produce.
“We’re in the Riverina food bowl, so why wouldn’t we use it and support our own?
“We want the quality of the food to speak for itself.
“We also still serve people their meals. They’re not a buzzer. They’re not a button number. And we want feedback too – good or bad – because it’s the only way we can improve.”