THE nights are cooler but the arrival of the Gnarly Bus in Newcastle will help locals cling year-long to the best memories of summer.
A high-top, seventies Kombi painted a peachy pink, the Gnarly Bus is the latest venture on wheels by couple Mark and Sara Howell. In 2015, the couple launched their business Retro Kombi Co, with their vehicles Olive (serving coffee and more) and Erroll (a dapper blue vehicle used for events) becoming fixtures at local markets.
About then the couple had the idea for a gelato and coffee vehicle but it took them three years to both source the rare Kombi and a tradesperson to fit it out in a manner worthy of its vintage.
"[The Gnarly Bus] is definitely nostalgic with a modern twist - an ice-cream truck makes people happy and to have an old Kombi and combining the two together, it evokes happiness," says Mark.
Adds Sara: "The 'gnarly' we are going with is the good connotation; it's a nice feeling that we want people to see the bus and visit us and feel rad and awesome."
The '76 Kombi allows the Howells to stand inside and work, whereas in Olive they work from the sides and back of the vehicle. "We wanted a little buddy for Olive and we didn't want to do just coffee, we wanted to do something better," explains Sara.
After buying the Gnarly Bus in Queensland, the couple found a Gosford tradie who helped them fit out the van with quality, small-scale equipment including a fridge while keeping its overall integrity. "There are little touches that we added, like timber windows suited to the era, and timber inside softens it," Mark says.
From its distinctive counter, the Gnarly Bus will serve locally-made gelato in a cone or cup, gelato sandwiches and Nitro coffee as well as an ever-changing Gnarly Bowl that may be sweet or savoury.
The Gnarly Bus will be at Surfest, Street Feast and other local events. Meanwhile, Olive is kept busy four days a week roaming the Callaghan campus of the University.
The Howells love meeting people and talking Kombis and more at markets and are, no pun intended, on a roll.
"We work a lot of hours but we don't approach it as work because we do what we love," says Mark.
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