By Emily Robinson
A mother and son team have brought new life to a charming 100-year-old miner’s cottage in Newtown.
Formerly known as The Cottage Geelong, Geelong mum Tracy and son James Skilbeck renamed the cafe Pakington Cottage in January this year.
But the inspiration behind the local business came all the way from Cambodia, following a chance encounter with a local during a trip to south-east Asia.
“I met Somnang during a Mekong river cruise and he just struck me as such a beautiful person,” Tracy says.
Upon learning about Cambodia’s lack of medical access, Tracy felt a “strong need to improve health and education outcomes for Cambodian people”.
“James and I starting looking into starting a social enterprise cafe in Cambodia, but obstacles in the country prevented us moving forward. So after doing a lot of research, we considered Geelong.
“When The Cottage came on the market, we bought it in an hour and three quarters, we knew it was perfect,” Tracy smiles.
Tracy grew up in Africa and moved to England at the age of 13 with her family.
“I got a job in London as a marketing manager, but when I turned 24 I was ready to see the rest of the world.”
Not long after she met her husband-to-be at Airey’s Inlet.
Tracy, now 50, has two adult children and co-manages Pakington Cottage with son James, 24.
“James and I are so different, we really complement each other.
“I deal with the marketing side of the business – I love dealing with brides and organising parties.
“On one occasion our kitchen catered for 120 wedding guests with different dietary requirements.
“The feedback was fantastic – guests even said the food was better than anything they’ve had in Melbourne.”
Tracy’s husband, a builder by trade, spent his entire summer holiday completely refreshing the cafe.
“We also built a new menu around our customer base and incorporated really fresh food and gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options.”
Despite not being able to open the cafe in Cambodia, Tracy still holds the country close to her heart.
“I continue to sponsor a Cambodian family.
“I’ve also recently given our new chef Emily some Cambodian cookbooks – she’s very excited about some of the ingredients.
“We hope to incorporate south-east Asian culture into our menu in the future.
“We’re proud to contribute to Spare Meals Geelong and we’re also currently in talks with an Australian-based charity which provides education and water to Cambodians.”
Pakington Cottage is open from 8am to 3pm seven days a week at 359 Pakington Street, Newtown, phone 5229 1599 or visit pakingtoncottage.com.au
The vibe: Chilled, happy and mellow
Tracy’s Mother’s Day recommendation
The coffee: Turmeric latte with almond or soy milk – not only delicious, but also full of anti-inflammatory properties.
The meal: The Pakington Bowl with chicken – healthy with a beautiful lean protein fix.