Fish and Chip shop owner Mark Riley searches through the rubble of the fire in Cowes.


A DEVASTATED Mark Riley, the owner of Riley’s Fish and Chips in Cowes’ Thompson Avenue, has been hit harder than most by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But despite arriving in the early hours of Saturday morning to see the smoke still rising from his gutted business premise, Riley’s Fish and Chips, he had nothing but praise for the Phillip Island community.

“I’d just organised a deal to sponsor the Phillip Island Football Netball Club and supply them with potato cakes and pies when this happens,” said Mark today.

“But you can see the business people here. I’ve had nothing but best wishes all day.

“The friends we’ve made here, both suppliers and customers, since we’ve come here. I’m just so sorry to be losing that, just when we were really starting to find our groove here.”

Mark and his partner came to Phillip Island in August last year after being stood down from a key role at the Melbourne Airport.

He used his payout money to set up the fish and chip business and was looking forward to a new life in the Island business community.

But he says there’s little or no chance of being able to set up again, despite having a $100,000 insurance policy to cover what is a total loss or damage of equipment and stock.

“We didn’t know anything about cooking fish and chips but a fiend of mine approached me to take over the shop here so I did a week in another fish and chip shop in Melbourne and walked in here and got started.”

Mark said he had a few simple rules for making good fish and chips, and other food, use absolutely fresh ingredients and always use clean oil.

“We’ve had a lot of good reports about our fish and chips and we’ve been in the process of developing our menu as well, just adding a new line of vegan food after getting some local requests.”

After the fire, though, Mark has already made some inquiries about getting his old job back but that won’t be until the air traffic picks up.

“They’ll need people when they get going again and there’s only one other bloke and me that know how to do a certain job, so hopefully I can get back on again.”

He’ll have to. He’s got no funds to fall back on until the airport gets going.

“We understand the fire started in the main fuse box, located between the two shops, and started around 2 o’clock in the morning.

“There’s CCTV footage from over the road which shows the front windows blowing out at about 2.30am.”

Apart from the façades of the two shops, Riley’s Fish and Chips and Kim’s Bakehouse, the main body of the two shops has been completely destroyed.

About 60 firefighters with 17 fire-fighting appliances including some from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs battled the blaze for two hours and were praise for stopping it from spreading to the pharmacy next door and other shops.

Both police and CFA fire investigation officers have attended the scene and apparently confirmed that the fuse box was the source, and that there were no suspicious circumstances.