Norm and Lisa Carl are about 12 weeks in to their first experience as publicans of a country pub.
And, it's safe to say, the gloss hasn't worn off.
"Well, isn't running an Aussie pub a bit of a romantic notion," laughs Norm, a big bear of a man with a ready smile and that natural gift of the gab of any good publican.
But the new licensees of the Gerogery Hotel are absolutely adamant their plans involve so much more than grog and good grub.
They have hit the ground running with plans to make this little pub a hub of activity and the town of Gerogery a destination in its own right along the Olympic Highway.
These are big plans for a little pub, that has plenty of quintessential country pub charm but is a little frayed around the edges in places and offers only basic accommodation.
However you get the feeling if anyone can do it, it's this enterprising couple from Wagga, who also happen to have a family of eight children between them.
But this story doesn't start with the dream of running a pub.
Norm and Lisa, self-confessed foodies with a passion for local produce, had their travel wings clipped with the onset of COVID-19.
"For a couple who loves going places, it was frustrating," Norm says.
"We loved going away for a weekend to the Hunter Valley or on day trips enjoying regional produce, looking at local art, picking berries or going to markets.
"We really like to immerse ourselves in an area."
With the isolation imposed by COVID-19, they started looking online for gifts to send to family and friends, only to feel disappointed at the lack of truly local options.
"There were absolutely great products available but they didn't showcase the local area," Lisa says.
"The hampers, for example, might have one or two products from the region but that was it."
So Lisa "got fired up" and started her own home hamper business - to her surprise it took off.
The opportunity to be part of a pop-up shop at Wagga cemented the decision "this is something we could see ourselves doing".
The couple began casually looking around for retail spaces but nothing was quite the right fit.
The Gerogery Hotel came up and on a whim they checked it out.
"As soon as we saw the dining room, we were sold," Norm says.
"We knew our shop could really go in there."
Norm and Lisa may be first-time publicans but that doesn't mean they're lacking experience.
Lisa has worked in pubs before and Norm's parents, Daryl and Gwen Carl, ran the Woomargama pub for 10 years before it was sold about eight years ago.
"They've been very supportive, they've warned us about the risks, given us some great advice and said go for it," Norm says.
But the couple is under no illusion about what it's going to take to make this viable.
"We haven't gone in thinking it's just a little local country pub," Norm says.
"The business can't survive on bar flies," he adds, matter-of-factly.
"With drink-driving and responsible service of alcohol laws these days, it's got to be about more than that.
"This place is a pub, it's a bistro, it's got accommodation and there's now a gift store."
The couple, who took over the hotel on March 1, opened The Riverina Hamper Co shop one month later.
The store is filled with Riverina Murray products including beef jerky, licorice, sauces, soaps, candles and Lisa's famous hampers that can be delivered locally or posted Australia wide.
In the bistro they're sticking to offering good pub grub; they've introduced a 1kg steak or double parmi challenge, where anyone who can finish either meal (including sides) within an hour receiving 'G-Rodge' merchandise and the chance to make the top 10 honour board.
There's live music, specials and now, thanks to Lisa's contacts, they've set up regular markets including Saturday's Mother's Day market from 9am to 1pm.
And let's be clear: this is no garage-sale style, brick-a-brack affair.
Norm and Lisa are intent on attracting artisan producers to markets held on the second Saturday of the month.
"We are really passionate about local and supporting producers," Norm says.
"It's quite intoxicating when you talk to these people who are not making a fortune out of what they do.
"It might be they are making sauce because it's their grandmother's special recipe, for example.
"We don't charge stallholders because a lot of people are doing it tough, particularly after COVID-19."
The people of Gerogery are fantastic ... we didn't know that going in. It's a really good little town.Norm Carl
With the introduction of the gift shop and markets, Norm and Lisa "see an opportunity to make Gerogery a destination".
They hope to introduce cafe-style food during the day to encourage people to drop in, enjoy a coffee and buy a gift - "but we're not there yet".
They are incorporating local products into the existing pub menu, with Lazy Days dressing on salads and Crowley's Hot Sauce on the Ring of Fire parmi.
"We want to introduce as much local produce into the menu as possible but it will be staggered," Norm explains.
"I'm a person who likes to make changes and experiment - a pub gives us the opportunity to try new things.
"But we don't want to destroy the character of the pub."
Lisa and Norm are conscious that at the heart of the hotel is the community it serves.
Lisa says locals are really supporting them; the hotel has more than 60 people booked in for lunch on Mother's Day.
"The people of Gerogery are fantastic ... we didn't know that going in," Norm says.
"It's a great community and it's a really good little town."
So now they've got into the swing of pub life - while still juggling full-time jobs for now - has the romance worn off?
With great staff on board and 19-year-old son Nicholas working in the pub too, there's just one potential sticking point.
"Norm's a fantastic cook," Lisa begins.
"I hate cooking and I do joke that if Norm was sick or couldn't be here, we'd definitely have to close the kitchen for the day!"
- The Gerogery Hotel Mother's Day market is on Saturday, May 8, 9am to 1pm, with 35 stalls, jumping castle, live music and breakfast.
- The Riverina Hamper Co shop is open market days and pub hours: Tuesday to Friday 3pm to 10pm, Saturdays/Sundays 12pm to 10pm, or go to www.theriverinahamperco.com.au