Deli owner calls it a day

Riverton Deli owner Jody Thomas was left with no choice but to close up following a recent health scare, but plans to stay in the town, and hopes to continue baking on her own terms. Photo: James Swanborough
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Riverton will be slightly less lively this week, following the closure of a much beloved community hub.

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For the last two years, Jody Thomas has held down the deli counter and become a Riverton institution.

After struggles with health issues, and stress from short staffing took their toll over Christmas, Jody decided she could no longer give her all to the shop she has poured so much into since making it her labour of love.

“It was a big tree change coming here,” she said.

“The shop itself was in a really bad need of repair.”

Jody took on the deli on May 1, 2022, after moving to the Gilbert Valley town a month earlier, making the shift from the city, and a long term position managing a cosmetics counter at David Jones.

The previous owner had left the Riverton store without finishing their lease, leaving Jody with the task to get the shop completely renovated from top to bottom, work out what she was going to do with it, and get all the equipment.

“It was a lot of research,” she said.

“I love cooking, and always used to do it in my own kitchen, but when you are looking at commercial equipment, working in a commercial environment it is so different. It took me a little while to get the hang of it.”

Jody said the community quickly got behind the endeavour.

“From our first day of trading, all the people in the community and beyond, as far as Broken Hill, Jamestown and the Yorke Peninsula,all supported the business,” she said.

Jody made a reputation with her homemade treats.

“Sausage rolls have been a real hit, as have kranskys. We do a lot of gluten free as well, deli rolls there is always something to choose from in the bain marie and we try to change it up on a daily basis.”

With a little help from an early employee who was very experienced in road house style, the deli became one of the main port of call for hungry residents and travellers alike, not only supplying their own baked goods, but also supporting produce from surrounding businesses.

Of course some of the tradies are die hard Vili’s customers, so you have to make sure you always have a beef pie in there,” Jody laughed.

“We have good trade at lunch time with tradies, then after school we have an old style confectionary area with loose lollies you can mix and match with.”

The time has come for Jody to move on, however, as she noted she could no longer give her all to ensure the business is run to her satisfaction.

“I’ve been very honest with my customers,” she said. Jody had the shop closed for 10 days over Christmas.

“I have an auto-immune illness, and before Christmas I had a real lack of staffing, going from six staff to two including me, and it started putting a lot of stress on my health,” she said.

Trying to fulfil my customers treats, working in the store as well as behind the scenes with all the paperwork and ordering that goes along with the business, put Jody in quite a bad acute state, ending up in hospital.

“Through medical and family advice, I was told to slow down. This is a place you can’t slow down, so I had no choice but to close up,” she said.

While there is some sadness from leaving the business she has poured so much into,Jody believes there may yet be a silver lining, already receiving a potential offer to take over the lease.

“I put out a post to customers and got response straight away, so it’s quite a positive note to something that has been a bit devastating,” Jody said.

“We have lovely customers.”

Looking forward, rest and visits to a specialist to make sure things are going the way they should be are the doctors orders.

“It was a bit of a scare this time, so I’m not going to let that happen again,” Jody said.

“I’m the sort of person who has to put their all into something, you can’t do anything less. I am here to serve and please, so anything less was not an option.”

It’s not goodbye, however, as Jody plans to stay on in Riverton.

“We have made a home moving here, and done a lot of work to make it our home. We still want to be a part of the community,” she said.

“After I take a bit of a rest, who knows what’s next. Maybe if someone takes it on I can roll up some sausage rolls again, but if that happens I will be doing it in a quiet way and on my own terms.”

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