By Jess Baker
It has been a momentous week for those on the Granite Belt, with talk of two major Big Apple developments buzzing around town.
Last week, after three years of closure, Stanthorpe resident Anna Schnitzerling announced that she and her husband Shane would be reopening tourism landmark ‘Vincenzo’s at the Big Apple’ at Thulimbah.
The pair took possession of the premises on Tuesday 1 June and will spend the next four weeks cleaning, painting and completing a full shop fit-out before officially reopening on 1 July.
Anna said the new Vincenzo’s will be very similar to the one local residents already know and love, and will comprise a café, a deli and a wine bar.
“We just want to give it a new lease on life,” Anna said.
“Just get it up and running … and employ a lot of locals and have local produce there, as much as we can.”
She said she and her husband are hoping to hire between 10 and 15 local workers – including baristas, cooks, kitchen staff, and an assistant manager – and will be offering apprenticeships and traineeships as well as full-time, part-time and casual employment.
Anna and Shane, both born and bred in Stanthorpe, have extensive experience operating mixed-use premises like Vincenzo’s.
“We’d been looking at (leasing Vincenzo’s) for a while. We were actually looking at it late last year,” Anna said.
“But my husband and I have been out in central Queensland. We own roadhouses … (and) with Covid, we had to go out there and physically run our roadhouse.”
Anna said an opportunity to sell the roadhouse presented itself to her and Shane not too long ago. They felt it was the right move and decided to return to their roots – and their family – in Stanthorpe.
But in February 2021, as Anna and Shane seriously considered reopening Vincenzo’s, Southern Downs Regional Council announced it would be undertaking public consultation on the potential relocation of an iconic structure that adjoins the property – the Big Apple.
The decision sparked fierce criticism from the public, with many arguing the sculpture is a staple feature of the apple-growing region and should therefore remain at the gateway to the apple-growing region.
Last week, at the council’s 26 May ordinary meeting, it was decided that the landmark would remain at its current location in front of Vincenzo’s, much to the relief of many Granite Belt residents.
Southern Downs councillor Stephen Tancred told his colleagues at the meeting, as he has several times before, that the Big Apple is in Stanthorpe’s DNA.
“And didn’t we find that out, when despite not even going to formal public consultation … we received three written submissions, some legal advice, … a lot of personal phone calls and approaches and emails,” Cr Tancred said.
“There was a lot of discussion on social media and certainly the press … it reflected the great affection that the community, the whole Granite Belt, has for the Big Apple and the respect that they would like to be shown for its history.”
Cr Tancred said it could be possible that the council might have to apologise to the community and to the owner of Vincenzo’s if they “misunderstood the intentions” of SDRC.
Vincenzo’s owner Jason Mattiazzi was among many Granite Belt residents enraged by the council’s February decision to explore businesses’ requests to have the Big Apple moved to their individual properties.
At the time, Jason told Warwick and Stanthorpe Today that his family had paid approximately $20,000 for the Big Apple to be relocated to the land in front of Vincenzo’s in the early 2000s.
“The Stanthorpe Shire Council told us back then, ‘if you want (the Big Apple), pay for the reinstallation’,” Jason said in February.
“I was actually the one who tightened the bolts on that post.”
A report tabled at last week’s ordinary council meeting stated the Mattiazzis’ agreement with the former Stanthorpe Shire Council was an “exchange of correspondence, rather than a formal agreement.”
Nevertheless, council officers recommended the Big Apple remain at its current location on the corner of the New England Highway and Amiens Road at Thulimbah.
The council supported the recommendation and decided to clarify the legal ownership of the asset and its ongoing maintenance arrangements.
Anna said she and Shane would still have been interested in reopening Vincenzo’s had the council decided to relocate the Big Apple, but she is pleased the iconic structure is staying put.
“It would have been disappointing to see it move. I think they’ve made the right decision to keep it where it is,” she said.
Anna said she looks forward to opening the doors of the refurbished Vincenzo’s in July and would like to thank members of the local community for their support.