Down-to-earth business changes hands

by Sandi Miller
4th March 2024

Warrandyte’s favourite soil shop has changed hands.
It now has a new name — Wonga Garden & Building Supplies — with new owners committed to continuing to provide the service that has had locals returning to Mahoneys Court, time and again, for their landscaping supplies.
Since the site first opened in the 1980s, avid gardeners and landscapers have made use of Warrandyte’s “soil shop” on the corner of Warrandyte-Heidelberg Road and Mahoneys Court when it was time to load up on sand, soil, mulch, and stone.
It also boasted a plant nursery for a short time, but when Ron and Jan Day purchased what was then called the Soil Shop in 1992, they focused the business on garden supplies and being a community-focused business.
“We had a thriving business here for 20 years,” Jan Day told the Diary.
The Days then sold the Soil Shop to local excavator Sean Ramak, who ran the business for a short time, and it was then known as Supersoil.
In 2008, the baton was passed to Shane McMullin and Leisa Dabrowiecki, who rebranded as Riverside Sand & Soil in 2019. Shane and Leisa’s customer service has won a loyal and loving following from Warrandyte residents and customers who are further away.
That legacy is set to continue as Shane and Leisa pass on the business to a new family — albeit under a new name.
The Thompson family, Craig and Deb, and their son Ben, along with Craig’s brother Russell, who own Wonga Garden & Building Supplies in Warranwood, took over the business at the start of February.
Shane and Leisa put on an event to say farewell, and to welcome the new owners.
The event was attended by owners, past, present, and future, as well as many of Riverside’s loyal customers, where everyone enjoyed a few bevvies (with the bucket of the loader pressed into service as an esky) and some delicious Bocca pizzas.

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Leisa told the Diary she and Shane were sad to go.

“I want to thank the Warrandyte community — the Cricket Club, the kindergarten, the primary school, and everyone that’s supported us — and I do really want to thank our drivers — we wouldn’t be anything without them,” she said.

Leisa reflected on the huge learning curve she had when she started 15 years ago.

“I had no idea about the industry — I had my first customer ring me on my first day, asking me for some bar chairs*, and I had no idea what they were.
“But I know everything now, and the tradies love when they walk in, and they say, ‘Where’s the man?’ and they’re quite impressed that I can drive the loader,” she said.

But Leisa said it was time for her and Shane to have a new adventure.
“We are going to have a break for the moment, and a little bit more work/life balance for us, and to be available to be there for the grandkids — I’m looking forward to being able to be a nan”.
Shane agreed that some work/life balance is needed.
“Six days a week, you have no real holidays, no weekends.
“But the business has been really good, and I have loved the people — I will miss the people — we’ve formed friendships, real friendships.
“A fellow brought me a bottle of wine on our last day, and another customer brought us a TattsLotto ticket.
“That’s what it’s like; we have friends out of it, and it’s hard to get that,” he said.
Shane said there was no question that the team at Wonga were the right fit for the business.
There was a synergy — we didn’t even advertise, Leisa just made the call and spoke to Craig, and one afternoon, they were looking at it, and we came to an agreement, and that was it — they loved it, they loved the area and are a fantastic fit,” Shane said.
Craig Thompson said his family has been running Wonga Garden & Building Supplies for over 40 years.
“I’ve been in the industry since I was 18, and it has always been something I enjoyed.
“It gives you a lot of outlets for meeting people, but I have always loved machinery, and I’ve always loved landscaping too, and I get to deal with all those products as well as dealing with people, so it’s good.
“Shane and Leisa spoke to us last year about the possibility of being interested in Riverside.
“We thought it would complement our existing business,” Craig told the Diary.
Craig said despite the name change, they are not looking at changing too much about the business.
“We’ll bring it all under the one banner, so it’ll be one business with two depots.
“But we want to keep the feel of the Warrandyte business because I think it’s really good, and the yard looks great.”
Craig said they will continue offering the same staple of products — of all the garden and building supplies — sand, cement, stone, soil, and mulches.
“But we will also probably have more, specialty pebbles and decorative stones, and so forth.
“We would love to expand our range too,” he said.
Leisa said the community can still get all the special blends that Riverside has been famous for.
“We have handed over all the secret recipes,” she said. So, drop in to say hi to the Thompsons next time you need a metre or two of sand, soil, pebbles, mulch, or even a couple of bar chairs.

*[Editor’s note — bar chairs are clips used to hold concrete reinforcing bars in place]