Former garage now drawcard

The old-fashioned decor and motoring memorabilia draw visitors to Rick’s Garage, in Palmwoods,...
The old-fashioned decor and motoring memorabilia draw visitors to Rick’s Garage, in Palmwoods, Queensland. Photos: Gillian Vine
Gillian Vine meets a Kiwi couple who have turned a quiet Queensland town into a tourist hotspot.

If Rick Jamieson could have anything in the world, it would be the world’s fastest Indian, Burt Munro’s 1920 Indian Scout.

Brought up in Bluff on tales of Munro, Rick admits that owning the record-breaking motorcycle will remain a dream, as it is in Hayes & Sons’ Invercargill collection. He does have his own beautifully restored Indian, though, one of the numerous attractions at Rick’s Garage, in the small Queensland town of Palmwoods.

So how did a nice boy from the Bluff end up running a business in the Sunshine Coast hinterlands?

It began, he explains, when his oldest son developed asthma 24 years ago, and the family moved to Australia. There Rick, a marine fitter-turner, worked in roading technical services before running Ayers Rock Resort, while his wife, Lisa, originally from Thames, operated a tour-bus company.

The out-of-commission pump that started a change in direction for the garage.
The out-of-commission pump that started a change in direction for the garage.
After seven years in Ayers Rock, they moved when Rick took on the role of managing the Sunshine Coast’s largest shopping complex, Sunshine Plaza, in Maroochydore.

"We had no intention of buying a service station," he says, but the rundown garage — originally a blacksmith’s — in Palmwoods’ main street caught the couple’s imagination, so they bought it.

Enter the local council, which — pushed by large fuel companies — decreed about eight years ago that kerbside petrol sales were to cease. When the council reversed the decision, it was too late as Rick and Lisa had ripped theirs out, although they retained mechanical services.

The Jamiesons reassessed the business and decided it needed a new direction, developing it as an old-style diner and bar filled with motoring memorabilia, much of which was littered around the property.

"Everything here’s been found by us, gathered by us," Rick says.

"It wasn’t an easy run, no question there. We were broke," he says of getting the diner off the ground, even though work was done in stages.

Some of many pennants that adorn a ceiling in Rick’s Garage.
Some of many pennants that adorn a ceiling in Rick’s Garage.
"There were two years of sleepless nights but we kept on going."

They built everything themselves, including tables and garden seats, and decorated the building with old number plates, car pennants, old milk bar and brewery signs, and even movie posters.

"We really chase all original stuff [now]; nothing is replicated," Rick says.

When the couple bought the garage, Palmwoods was not a destination and nothing came through the town except for local traffic.

Lisa explains that in the early days there was concern that newcomers had bought the garage, even though "it had been on the market for ever" and was in a sad state.

"Now they’ve come around [and] a lot of locals bring their friends who are visiting," she says.

Owning a piece of adjacent land — now a garden bar, decorated with plants Rick has grown — and a car park were bonuses.

Most of these old licence plates were found in the garage.
Most of these old licence plates were found in the garage.
Other attributes of Palmwoods are that this is a good motorbiking area and it is only half an hour by car from the resort towns of Maroochydore and Mooloolabah.

Word spread and Palmwoods — or more accurately, Rick’s Garage — became a destination in its own right and now attracts tourists from the surrounding area, plus a lot of car club groups that come from the Gold Coast and further north.

"And we get a lot of Kiwis coming here. They love to look around," Lisa says.

A decade ago, parking in Palmwoods was a breeze but Rick’s Garage is now so popular that if you want to park on the main street, you’ll be lucky to find a space.

Rick’s Famous Ribs are probably the most popular item on the menu and I strongly recommend them, while for those with more sophisticated tastes, there are 105 whiskies on sale in the Whisky Bar. Among them are several much-sought-after, top-end Japanese brands. At $A150 ($NZ163) a nip, I wince and pass on this treat.

- Gillian Vine travelled to Queensland as the guest of Visit Sunshine Coast (visitsunshinecoast.com). She stayed at Bli Bli House Riverside Retreat (https://bliblihouse.com.au)

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