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Wallan farewells beloved fish and chip shop owners

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Max Davies
Max Davies
Max is a journalist for the North Central Review. He joined the paper as a cadet journalist in 2021 and graduated from La Trobe University in 2023. He takes a keen interest in motorsport and the automotive industry.

By Grace Frost

Longtime business owners and beloved members of the Wallan community, Haydar ‘H’ Sobh and his wife Dana, have finished operating Wallan Fish and Chips after nearly 14 years.

The Sobhs started their business in November 2009 and quickly solidified Wallan Fish and Chips as a staple to the High Street business community.

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While burgers, flakes, and gluten-free options put Wallan Fish and Chips on the map, it was the sign at the front of the store that truly won the hearts of Wallan residents.

“Wallan Fish and Chips are supporting the less fortunate. If you are in need, please come in and see us!!,” it read.

Photo: Ben Keane

After realising the high number of people being impacted by cost-of-living pressures in town, the family business embarked on a mission to give back to its community just before lockdowns commenced.

The Sobhs provided food free of charge to those doing it tough.

“Most of this stuff came out of my wife and I’s pocket, but I don’t really care,” Mr Sobh said.

“Some of my suppliers knew what I was doing, so they would throw in a few bits and pieces every week.”

Lockdowns proved to be the toughest time for those struggling in the community.

“I really wanted to help the ones that were too proud to ask – my regulars, the ones that come and tap their card and the money didn’t go through. I was pretending it had gone through,” Mr Sobh said.

“You do your best to help out as much as you can, but mainly listen – I used to listen a lot.”

Wallan Fish and Chips eventually partnered with charity Love in Action when the donations ‘got a bit out of control’.

“I would give [Love in Action president Sarah Brewer] some vouchers for Wallan Fish and Chips, which I paid out of my own pocket – and then she knows who needs them more than me,” Mr Sobh said.

“Not only will they give you a voucher, but they can help you more if you need.”

Originally planning to run the store for five years, Mr Sobh said it was the Wallan community that kept him around a lot longer.

“I just love what I do and the people were fantastic,” he said.

“I’ve seen kids from primary school – grade five, grade six – through high school, and now they’re all married and got careers and children of their own.

“I mean, it’s the community that made us […] it’s just a tight-knit community.”

Handing over the keys, the former co-owners are now having a well-deserved rest and spending more time with their two daughters.

“When it’s time to go, it’s time to go,” Mr Sobh said.

“The girls have grown up, they’re at uni. I’ve got to start being at home. Family comes first.”

Mr Sobh encouraged the community to be patient with the new owners as they learned the ins and outs of Wallan Fish and Chips.

“They’re new at it, they’ve never had a shop, but they’re very keen to run this. They’ve heard a lot about the shop and the area,” he said.

“[The new owners] actually asked about [Love in Action], and I told them how it works. They’re going to continue it.”

The staff who were employed under Mr Sobh have retained their positions under new management.

Mr Sobh will make an appearance once in a while at the shop to support the new owners in the transition and will continue to support Love in Action on behalf of the new crew.

“I just want to thank everyone for their wonderful support through thick and thin,” he said.

“A lot of people stood by me and supported me, and that got me to where I am today.

“I’m grateful for the experience – to me, I can never probably experience it again in another business. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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  1. No matter the day you were there with a smile for my kids. Your initiative with love in action was a fantastic collaboration and glad to see the new owners will be continuing with it.

  2. Wonderfully community orientated person. A loss for the Wallan community. Best wishes for your future endeavours.
    Regards Jeremy

  3. You’ll be truly missed H and Dana. Thank you for all the years you gave to Wallan. Enjoy your time with the family

  4. Thanks for all the years of good service especially all the phone call orders for ‘Tori’ my veggie daughter grew up through school on potatoe cakes and every time we called it ‘ oh Toris mum’ haha had a few laughs through the years

  5. All the best. And thanks for the free potato cake every time we came in. My son only said once that he loved them and you looked after him every time.

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