In The Hub by Clyde Mooney

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12 local families that banded together to buy the pub and save their town have seen their work pay off as the Border Inn Hotel scoops the Wimmera Business Awards.

Apsley is a tiny town of about three hundred souls, straddling the Wimmera Hwy just seven kilometres from the South Australian border, in north-west Victoria.

The town was struggling to survive, particularly after the closure of its pub – the Border Inn – in 2011. Fearing for the future of Apsley, 12 local families came together in a round-table discussion to consider what could be done.

“They went to some other towns that had done similar things and did some research, and decided they thought it was going to work. It just took off from there,” licensee Vanessa Grigg told PubTIC.

“They each put in equal money to get it going, and did most of the work themselves.”

On 19 July, 2014 the Border Inn reopened after a thorough refurbishment. It now offered dining facilities, accommodation and a small, attached general store.

Since that time Grigg has been engaged to run the bar operations, and more recently George Taylor now mans the kitchen. Real estate transactions in the area have begun again, and there are now two cafes in the town too.

The pub caters to its market of locals, day-trippers and passing tourists, including a free camping area out back and menu stocked with local produce of lamb, beef, pork, bread and wine.

The quality and passion of the turn-around has already made a mark, with the Hotel earning some top honours at the biennial 3WM MIXXFM Wimmera Business Awards. Every two years the Awards allow regional businesses to promote their strengths, and ultimately recognise “the contribution of different types of business” to the Wimmera economy.

The Border Inn Hotel took home 1st prize in the ‘Food & Beverage’ category and was granted the Judges’ Award for ‘Best New Business’.

AHA Victoria praised the work of the community-run pub, and their accolades.

“We want to extend our congratulations to George, Vanessa and their team at the Border Inn Hotel for their achievements,”

Grigg says she’s very happy to be part of the success story, and that the town is coming to life again.

“It’s going great … the town’s thriving again. We’re very lucky.”