THIRD-generation hoteliers Mark and Tracey Daldy and their three grown and nearly-grown sons have returned to the Foster pub as its owners after a 15-year interlude away from the Exchange Hotel and its iconic Main Street corner tower.
Not that they’ve ever strayed very far or for very long from the Corner Inlet district’s main township, for the Daldys’ permanent family residence is in Foster.
Everyone in the Daldy clan reckons that their hearts and lives are here in Foster, and in Yarram, too, where the family owns the Commercial Hotel.
Mark and Tracey officially took back the reins of the Exchange Hotel from its departing proprietors, Ben Dash and Adam Wallace, on Monday November 13, 2023.
This significant event in the annals of the Foster pub is an interesting reversal of what had occurred a decade-and-a-half previously, when Ben and Adam had assumed ownership of the hotel from the Daldys in 2008.
Mark first came to Foster in 1993 to manage the Exchange, ostensibly “for a couple of years”, on behalf of the Carmichael family who were its proprietors at that time.
“I always thought I was going to be heading back to Melbourne to run a city watering hole, but after four or five years I figured out that Foster was a good fit for me and it actually felt like home, and so I bought the pub here instead!” he laughed.
“Then, in 1999, I met a Toora girl, Tracey Harding, whose father and grandfather had been publicans just like mine were, which we both thought was a pretty good coincidence.
“We worked out that between three generations of Daldys and Hardings our families have either owned or run 22 different pubs in and around regional Victoria and inner-city Melbourne.
“Tracey was managing the Foster Motel on the South Gippsland Highway when we met, and she certainly helped to strengthen the connection I’d already developed with this area,” Mark said.
“In 2004, we decided to buy the Fish Creek Hotel with our long-term business partners, Andrew and Jane Carmichael.
“Almost right from the beginning, we’ve had other people running the Fishy pub for us, and now it’s leased to some very good friends of ours, Greg and Gabby Wilcox, who also lease the Meeniyan Hotel.
“Not long before we got the Fishy pub, our first child, Tai, was born, who was followed by Noah, and then by Sam, who came along in 2007.
“By 2008 though we’d begun to think that we’d like to try something different, and so we decided to sell the Foster pub, which resulted in Ben and Adam coming in and us having a change of pace for a few years,” he said.
“However in about 2013 we both started to miss being in the hospitality business, so we began looking for another good country pub to buy.
“We went all around Victoria; to Echuca, Cohuna, Lakes Entrance, and Nicholson, and eventually, in 2016, the Commercial Hotel in Yarram became available,” Mark said.
“Tracey’s mum’s family originally came from that way, around Yarram, and buying a pub there turned out a very good fit, too.
“We’re very happy in Yarram, with a really great team working with us there, and it’s because of the local support we’ve received and the success we’ve been lucky to get in the Commercial that we decided to take the Exchange on again, as well,” he said.
Mark and Tracey said they are thoroughly enjoying being back behind the bar and in the bistro of the Exchange Hotel and welcoming their old and new customers, with the “full support of the staff, who are all on board with us.
“We’re planning to tweak and enhance the menu here, and to introduce theme nights in the near future, for example, parma nights, and curry nights, which are very popular at Yarram,” they said.
“We’re very glad to be back in the Foster pub and we thank Ben and Adam for being its custodians for the past 15 years.”