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HomeNewsCalamari Kindness: How a fish and chips investment turned into friendship

Calamari Kindness: How a fish and chips investment turned into friendship

Wiraphat ‘Will’ Plathongkham was about to lose his first business, due to no fault of his own, until an almost complete stranger stepped in.

“To be honest, I was never one to believe in miracles. But that was one of the biggest to ever happen,” Will said.

Andy King is a local dad who had chatted with the young shop owner a few times.

He was aware of Will’s vision and was drawn to Will’s ambition so much that he decided to help.

“The thing that resonated with me is he wanted to create a better working environment for his mother and his sister, not just himself,” Andy explained.

“The thing that resonated with me is he wanted to create a better working environment for his mother and his sister, not just himself”

The two hit it off quickly and what started as a promising business opportunity blossomed into an unlikely friendship.

Will was about to lose his first business until an almost complete stranger stepped in.

Let’s start at the beginning

The Calamari Kid is now active and run by Will, his sister, Needa, and his mum, Nana, in the heart of the Top Shops on Harbord Road, Freshwater. (It was there with previous owners for years earlier but it had become very run down.)

The takeaway shop has fast become a hit with the community, acquiring loyal locals and raving reviews not even six months after opening, but it was not smooth sailing getting there.

Will’s troubles began after a run-in with a local builder, almost crushing his dreams of running a takeaway store.

“I got the keys on Halloween, and it was like a nightmare walking in that night to have a look at the state of things,” Will recalled.

“We had issues with taking the place apart. We had the ceiling collapse on us… it was a bumpy couple of months leading up to Christmas.”

Just five days out from Christmas, the young restaurant owner was sitting outside his store distressed, pondering how he would financially recover, until what he can only describe as a “miracle” happened.

The Calamari Kid founders. From left to right: Andy, Nana, Needa, Will.

“We came past and Will was quite upset and pretty beaten down by what happened with the builder that had probably taken advantage of them. And they had a capital problem,” Andy said.

“When I came home, my wife, Julia, said, ‘You want to help and be a part owner of a fish and chip shop?’ And I was like, it’s a little more than that. And then thankfully, once I talked to her about Will and the family, it resonated with her very quickly.”

The collapsed roof midway through renovations.

Andy and his family live locally in Freshwater and had met Will a few times casually while riding their e-bikes past the store during its renovations.

Growing up, Andy knew the store as Calamari Kid and was curious about Will’s new vision, which was originally about transforming the space into a Thai kitchen.

The two would occasionally talk, leading Andy to resonate with the 23-year-old’s entrepreneurism and dedication to creating good food and a happy working environment for his family.

“I didn’t want Will and his mother and his sister to give away the business to someone, because I felt like they’d done all the hard work to back themselves,” Andy retold.

“I see a lot in him when I was maybe in my 30s wanting to start a small business and I was like, Jesus, this guy’s only in his early 20s, and he wants to take this on? That’s a big leap.”

Andy and Will at Calamari Kid.

The Freshie dad contacted his friend Sam Trude – an LA-based Northern Beaches local who has Great White restaurants in Venice Beach – to support the idea.

Julia also lent a helping hand, implementing expertise with her background in PR and branding.

The group put their heads together and banked on nostalgia by revitalising the Calamari Kid – the fish and chips brand which stood on the corner for years prior – with the addition of Will’s culinary twist.

“The locals would always come by to talk to me and explain to me how much the Calamari Kid meant to them, so we decided that you know what, this is not our place to take that connection away from the community. So we decided to just bring it back,” Will said.

“We worked with Will and his family to work out the best products and really the best food that’s a mixture of guilty pleasures, as well as, some healthy options for those health-conscious families,” Andy added.

“It’s definitely doing better than what our expectations were.”

Will, his sister, Needa, and his mum, Nana, whipping up some deliciousness.

Will and his family have a vast background in cooking and have worked in kitchens all around Manly, including Skiff, Wharf Bar, and Insitu Steyne, and have a unique style of cooking.

Before leaving the store after the interview, Andy and Will twisted my arm to sit down and try some of their favourite items on the menu. Everything I tried exceeded the expectations of what I’d normally expect at a fish and chips corner store, especially the fresh, stove-grilled calamari.

Andy with the spread I enjoyed after the interview.

The store is quickly becoming a staple of the community, and with positive verbal feedback and an array of positive reviews online, there is already talk of a franchise.

“A friend was on a flight back from Queensland last week and saw a guy with a Calamari Kid hat in front of him… it kind of slapped me in the face at how much these things really are community assets,” Andy said.

“So you know, if we need another Calamari Kid on the Northern Beaches, we might think about it, but we’re gonna see how it goes over the next six to nine months. The aim was just to get that tail end of summer and see how it trades through winter.”

In the meantime, the Calamari Wunderkind Will is just grateful for the people he has met to make his dream a reality and hopes to continue making good food the community will love.

“The local community here has been wonderful. I want everyone to be able to enjoy good food,” Will said.

“I feel that we’re doing this within our responsibility to the community since everyone’s been so nice and kind and very supportive, that we do the best for them.”

You can find Calamari Kid at 119 Harbord Rd, Freshwater.

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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