Popular Caulfield burger shop Tuck Shop Takeaway is closing after nine-and-a-half years of trade so its owners can embark on new stages in their hospitality careers. But what was meant to be a busy, happy few weeks of flipping farewell patties has turned into an intense maelstrom of social media attention.
After owners Karina and Clinton Serex went public with online abuse received over the years, their decision to call time has been misread as a retreat.
"People are misconstruing our decision to close as being caused by abuse," says Karina Serex. "That's not it. We will never step away from hospitality completely: it's our passion, our life, our world. We just want to explore other parts of the industry and spend more time with family. This is a positive move for us."
The decision was made after the Serexes sat down over Christmas to reflect on the business they poured heart and soul into for almost a decade.
"We never intended to have Tuck Shop until we retired," says Karina. "The industry is tough and hard. We are tired. We have come to a point where we need to step away from the bricks and mortar, key-turning at 11 o'clock every morning, showing up with gusto and a smile five days a week."
The big decision prompted some deep reflections and the Tuck Shop Instagram account has recently featured heartfelt posts on the rigours of running a small business, particularly the burden of negative customer comments and online trolling.
The Serexes shared some hurtful feedback which included, "The only thing I can say about this place is that it should be burnt to the ground."
"We wanted to touch on it," says Karina. "We wanted other business owners to know they're not alone. We've been inundated with people thanking us for bringing it to light. Someone even told me they had considered suicide because of trolling they'd experienced."
However, calling out online abuse has only led to more of it. "We've been called 'weak pussies' and 'cry babies', told to toughen up," she says. "To put up a post about online hate and then to get trolled for it…what the actual heck? It's incredibly distressing to cope with while we're also dealing with the hard work, emotion and practicalities of closing a business. It's creating a world of pain."
So with 10 days of trade to go, how does it feel? "Apart from being so upset, it's bloody brilliant, such a relief," she says. "We are working 16 hours a day, not putting a crumb of food in our mouths. That light at the end of the tunnel is keeping us going."
Instead of triple-frying chips and pressing beef patties, the Serexes, both 40, will concentrate on their burgeoning wholesale businesses. Karina, an ex-Fat Duck pastry chef, will grow her Sundae School ice-cream brand. Clinton will expand his Tuck Shop sauce side hustle, currently stocked in 14 stores. "We've hashed out a pretty good plan," says Karina.
The couple will keep the corner shop ("there's five years on the lease and the rent is good"), paint the windows for privacy, and manufacture their products in the space.
Tuck Shop Takeaway's last day will be Saturday, February 12, at 273 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North.
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