Out of the ashes…Tutti Fruitti reborn, open for business from Saturday
It took Bilpin’s much-loved Tutti Fruitti café owners months to even come out of hiding after their life’s work was totally destroyed by bush fires sweeping through the area last year.
Such was the devastation - everything was gone so quickly - owner Cynthia Demmocks still finds it hard to talk about last December when fire raged all around.
“Some days back then we just had to close the shop and go home because we were worried the fire was getting too close to us, and no customers were around anyway,” Cynthia told the Post.
On the day the fire took hold of their iconic café on Bells Line of Road, Cynthia and husband John’s daughter Megan and son-in-law Chris – both trained firefighters - were there to help. It was December 21 when the fire bore down.
“Fire trucks were here too and everyone seemed to think the fire was going to just go past the bottom of the property,” said Cynthia, “but the wind changed direction and the full fire front hit the property, destroying two houses, a massive shed and the shop all in a very short time. Nothing could be salvaged, everything was burnt to the ground.”
Cynthia and John's daughter Megan in the new Tutti Fruitti
And on top of all that, Megan and Chris and their three children lost their home and everything they owned. Initially they camped on Cynthia and John’s land at Mountain Lagoon.
“It is still difficult to relive this day, especially for Megan and Chris,” said Cynthia.
“John and I had gone home a few hours before the fire hit because our property down Mountain Lagoon was also under threat. We were all very traumatised and shell-shocked.”
Tutti Fruitti is a landmark café in the Bilping region. John and Cynthia first opened the doors 17 years ago, the name chosen by their then young children.
“Yes, the Tutti Fruitti name was made up by our kids but then later we discovered that in Italian it means “all the fruits” so that was very appropriate for our Tutti Fruitti real fruit ice cream,” said Cynthia.
Customers stopped in this last weekend when Tutti Fruitti opened for a training session
When the café was up and running, you could drop in and grab a coffee, have a Devonshire tea, home cooked country style gourmet pies and quiche, homemade cakes, desserts and of course, the famed Bilpin apple pies. And the special treat for kids and adults alike was the real-fruit ice-cream where they blended fresh berries with vanilla ice-cream for a real taste sensation. There was also a wide selection of homemade jams and preserves cooked with the family’s own fruit, together with local produce.
Back then you could relax in the garden and rose courtyard and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
All of that was destroyed last December, a life’s work suddenly rendered in ashes.
“Rebuilding Tutti Fruitti has been challenging,” said Cynthia. “We lost everything, nothing was left, just a pile of rubble. It was devastating.
“We spent a couple of months in hiding and were not really sure we wanted to start again. We were all completely shell-shocked. Our family came to live with us at Mountain Lagoon for a few months but then they returned here to Tutti Fruitti to set up camp.
“Restarting Tutti Fruitti gave us all something positive to focus on. We were insured, but definitely not enough to cover all the extra things like finding the electricity lines and septic and plumbing lines, recreating the driveway and fencing and gardens. So we have had to largely do all of the outside work ourselves.”
They had locals help too, like the Draper family - Danny, Sara and Angela - who turned up with new magnolia trees to replace those lost in the inferno.
The Draper family worked hard to make new garden beds and plant magnolias to replace those lost in the fire
“Danny thought it was just not right that Tutti Fruitti had lost its beautiful magnolias,” said Cynthia.
All the hard work has paid off – the gardens are taking shape, the new building is ship-shape and ready for business.
“We did a trial run this last weekend just with friends and family, basically to introduce new staff to our routines and try to work out what we are doing! It was unfortunately not a good weekend to do this with 40 degrees, crazy strong winds and then no power from lunchtime!” said Cynthia.
Tutti Fruitti - open for business from this weekend
“It will be nice to see all our regular customers again and of course it will be good to have some income as we have had no income for past 12 months. We started a Facebook page when we started rebuilding and have had so many messages of support from our loyal customers and friends and that has helped us stay positive.”
This weekend Tutti Fruitti is back, risen from the ashes and testament to the sheer grit which has seen families across the Hawkesbury start to rebuild their lives and in the process give us all hope.
So take a drive up to Bilpin, stop and inhale the fresh air, and once more get some really great local foods, and of course, don’t go past the legendary Tutti Fruitti ice cream.
Tutti Fruitti is at 1917 Bells Line of Road, Bilpin, an easy 90 min drive from Sydney, and is open from this Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm, and then weekly after that on Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday from 9-30am to 4-30pm daily.