63-year-old's return to body building sparks new business
BUILT FOR SUCCESS: 63-year-old Yeppoon bodybuilder Mal O'Keeffe with the medals he won recently in Mackay and Townsville.
A FAMILIAR culinary landmark in the Yeppoon CBD will close its doors for the final time next Monday as Mal O'Keeffe ends six years of trading at his well-known fish and chip shop.
It's not the end of retailing on the site, however, nor is Mal severing his connections with the prime city centre location, where new - and entirely different - types of nutritional options will hit the shelves in the near future.
Mal believes Yeppoon and the Capricorn Coast will welcome the change.
"I believe this site has operated as a fish and chip shop for 15 years and for the past six my amazing staff and I have done our best to perfect our cooking and give great service," he said.
"It can take years to get it right.
"On any given day we can receive up to a dozen compliments from customers and in holiday time many more than that," Mal said.
But, as many local retailers will confirm, times are not as good as they were even a few years ago.
"The years 2011 and 2012 were great trading years, but 2013 and beyond have seen a steady decline, with this year being the worst so far," Mal said.
"The mining downturn, the drought and other factors have all had a snowball effect.
"Many people in all sorts of businesses have suffered, with people losing their jobs or having their hours cut.
"Some small business owners will survive and I wish them all the best but, for me, I need to close my doors," he said.
"What hurts me the most is the disappointment on the faces of my regular customers and some who have become my friends.
"But I'm not leaving Yeppoon - I just love it here."
In order to stay, Mal is combining his retailing experience with his passion for bodybuilding, a sport in which he has been involved in for more than three decades.
Mal describes himself as "a passionate man when it comes to health".
"I believe without it you don't have much at all, and there is competition bodybuilding, which is an extension of being healthy.
"Not everybody likes to do it but, for me, I just love it. It keeps my healthy lifestyle on track.
"I wasn't born with the best genetics for bodybuilding but I do the best I can with what I was given," he said.
After staying away from competition for more than 20 years, he's now back.
This year Mal won the Australasian Natural Bodybuilding ultra grand masters South Pacific Championship in Mackay and gained second place (against the current Australian champion) in the Coral Coast Championship in Townsville.
After a short break, he will start training for his first-ever tilt at the state and national titles to be held in September and October.
In the meantime, the former fish and chip shop owner will set about preparing the equipment and facilities for his new retail health and fitness operation, including instruction and consultancy.
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