As love stories go, Ed and Julie Peter’s is a cracker. The couple met 26 years ago on separate international adventures with mates. “We ended up in the Canadian wilderness in a canoe,” Julie says. “I sat in the [two-person] canoe with Ed and didn’t speak to him, except when we drank far too much gin. I used to be very shy.”
They eventually hit it off. It’s a good thing, too. The pair was responsible for the transformation of The Crafers Hotel, and The Uraidla Hotel. Who knows what the Adelaide Hills watering holes would look like if they hadn’t worked their magic.
Ed and Julie take a seat at their new café/bakery The Uraidla Republic. The Uraidla Hotel is doing a roaring lunch trade and to the rear of the property, their brewery hums with activity. The little town is pumping.
Before returning to Oz and changing the face of the Adelaide Hills, Ed and Julie lived an exciting life abroad. “We lived in Switzerland, then in France for a brief period of time,” Ed says. “We lived in Hong Kong for four years, Singapore for seven, then came here.” That was nearly five years ago.
Ed is Swiss but moved around a lot during his youth. Ed’s mother worked in sales and his father in the advertising industry. “I moved around: back and forth from the States to Switzerland with my parents as well as spending time in other places like Canada and Mexico,” he says. “We went back to Switzerland four times. When I was about 20 years old I did my military service, then started working as a banker because it was the only job I could get.”
Banking isn’t Ed’s thing anymore. “I’m an ex-investment banker who didn’t like the bullshit that was happening in the industry.”
Julie was born in New Zealand but her family moved to South Australia when she was three. “We lived on the plains for a few years, and moved up to Aldgate when I was five or six. I went to Stirling East Primary School and high school at Seymour College.”
Julie studied advertising and graphic design, worked for a couple of years in advertising, then took off backpacking with the intention of living and working in London. “Then I met this one and things changed.” She joined Ed in Geneva, Switzerland and when he left banking in 2009, the pair headed to Australia. They now live in Stirling. “We came here because it’s my home,” Julie says.
These days, Ed works in agriculture management. His business Duxton Asset Management is run out of a building on Stirling’s main street. It has operating investments across the globe: in Latin America, Australia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa. Ed is committed to operating a business with a social conscience and helps many faraway communities. All this is done from the Adelaide Hills. “Normally I’d do it from some place in New York or Hong Kong, Singapore [but] we do all of this very quietly, under the radar, from little old Stirling.”
It’s amazing what a person will do for love. “I had a chance to be married to an exceptionally beautiful, creative woman who thinks out of the box and has chosen a local community to be very involved with. She takes things that are broken and fixes them.”
Like pubs. And CBD bricks and mortar. Five years ago, they purchased the former Westpac building on the corner of King William Street and North Terrace. It is now home to rooftop bar 2KW and Jamie’s Italian restaurant but previously, was a waste of space. “It was very much an unloved, closed, awful place,” Julie says. “It was pretty smelly inside.”
Why did they buy it? “Basically, I walked out from lunch [in the CBD], saw the ‘for sale’ sign and wondered how much it was,” Ed says. “I made a phone call and found out it wasn’t as much as I’d expected.”
The cogs started turning. Julie wanted to build a rooftop bar. “We know Marty Palmer [owner of Palmer Hospitality] quite well and he took on the project with glee.”
Next, they purchased The Crafers Hotel. It needed a lot of work but the couple has plenty of experience in restoration in France, Singapore, and their 1860s house in Stirling. They also own restaurants, wine wholesale business The Straits Wine Company in Singapore, and several wineries including Kaesler in the Barossa and Yarra Yering in the Yarra Valley.
It’s not just about food, wine, and aesthetics. A building needs people to make it shine. Like The Uraidla Hotel which had been closed for four years before they renovated and re-opened it during 2016.
“Head chef Anna Kittel has been here since the beginning,” Julie says. “I really think it’s a collaboration between both of us. She’s just as passionate as I am about local ingredients and growing as much as we can here. She’s also just as mad as me!”
The historic establishment dates back to 1867. It was destroyed by fire in 1939 and all that remains of the original building is the long room facing the town’s main street. Look closely and you’ll see burnt timber in the exposed ceiling structure. Every quirky antique piece was collected by Julie, including the beer keg urinals, fairy-light draped Hills Hoist, to the vintage lamps suspended upside-down from the dining room ceiling. The front foyer was decorated 1930s art deco style and upstairs function spaces are a delightful collision of geometric and floral patterns.
Their addition of a brewery and café/bakery next door created quite a food hub. The Uraidla Republic café and bakery (in a former squash centre) is a hive of activity. “The pub is the centre of the community,” Julie says.
The future is bright. “We’re doing a mini-version of this across the road from the Stanley Bridge Hotel. The Providore [will be] a bakery on the side of the road in a beautiful old cottage.”
It’s good news for the town of Verdun. “We bought the Stanley Bridge Hotel with the same group of investors as The Crafers,” Ed says. “We’re the majority shareholders, but the Matthews are very heavily involved in both.”
The powerhouse duo remain tight-lipped about future projects but a glimmer in Julie’s eye indicates exciting things are on the horizon. Above all, she’s genuinely thrilled to be home. “I’m thankful that Ed likes it here,” she says. “I’m working on the one-degree of separation,” Ed adds. “As soon as I can say I know your uncle and aunt and second cousin, I’ll feel like a local!”
Where’s your favourite place for a feed in the Adelaide Hills? Let us know in the comments, below.