Meet the Business Owners – Deb and Mark Davis from Level One Wine Bar, Level One Cellars and Din Dins

For some, moving to regional Australia offers the promise of a more quiet lifestyle, and that very notion is what pulls many away from the hustle and bustle of our capital cities. However, living the quiet life has never been on the cards for Deb and Mark Davis – best known for Level One Wine Bar, Level One Cellars, and now the busy new owners of Albury’s Asian-fusion staple, Din Dins.
We were lucky to catch Deb for a quick chat after a Friday lunch service, where she gave us some background on her and Mark’s journey to Albury, and their ‘just be nice’ philosophy and strike while the iron’s hot mentality to running a successful business.

AlburyCBD: You’ve got so much going on at the moment, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and your recent purchase of Din Dins?​

Deb: I’ve been in hospitality for 40-odd years. I had a really large restaurant in Bendigo with nearly 300 seats that I built on the lake. I met Mark there when he was selling me wines, and we ended up together. I sold the Boardwalk in 2011 and we both moved permanently to Melbourne to run the wholesale wine business. After moving to Melbourne, I managed a couple of restaurants there for five or six years before travelling to Albury for a birthday party.

I’ve always owned my own restaurants and I wanted to get back into owning one again.

While in Albury, a friend of ours said ‘I have something to show you.’ He took us up to Level One Wine Bar and we bought it that day.

We moved to Albury in 2019 and were only open for four weeks before COVID shut us down, and the business in Melbourne started to go downhill, so we moved to Albury permanently. Even though we were still selling wines, we lost a lot and we just made the decision to scale the wine business back.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing in Albury, however, with the 2021 NSW lockdowns reaching the northern side of the border.

During the New South Wales lockdowns we had a degustation due on a Sunday and we had to throw all of the food out.

But then, we opened Level One Cellars during lockdowns. We knew we were always going to open one and we just rushed it and got that open to sell some of the food. And then, when Din Dins came on the market at the end of 2023, we went in to view it and bought it the next day.

AlburyCBD: What brought about the purchase of Din Dins, and how’s it going for you so far?

Deb: It’s going great – better than we could imagine. We’re booked out every night. We had an overload of chefs and Matt King, our head chef who is now our executive chef at both places, loves Asian food. He did a year in Japan just before COVID and we always wanted to get another restaurant. We thought about doing Italian but decided to go with Asian. When Din Dins came up, we were looking at a few other empty locations, so it was all perfect timing.

Matt was the one who found it, he was looking at the businesses for sale every day and he rang Mark and me and said, ‘Look at this.’ We went in and had a chat the next day, put an offer in and purchased it.

AlburyCBD: So you move quite quickly when you want something, and you just go for it?

Deb: Absolutely. When I built the Boardwalk, I built it from scratch. It was a teahouse with just a roof and holes and six weeks later I opened it fully built with kitchen, dining, big glass windows and a boardwalk all the way around it on the lake. When you want something, you’ve just got to do it.

AlburyCBD: What do you love about being in AlburyCBD?

Deb: I just love Albury. Mark and I both love it. The lifestyle’s amazing, the people are friendly and all the other business owners are friendly. It’s convenient, you can walk anywhere. People can walk to you – it’s just a seriously great ambience. It’s also convenient to Sydney and Melbourne, and my kids who live in Bendigo.

The day we bought Level One Wine Bar, I told Mark I could live here and, later that day our friend John showed us Level One and we bought it.

Albury has a positive vibe about it, especially when compared to somewhere like Melbourne at the moment.

AlburyCBD: Usually we ask what’s next, but you’ve just done that one, so we think you might have your hands full for a little while.

Deb: Absolutely, although Mark did say something in the car the other day and I just said, ‘Seriously?!’ No, let’s wait a while.

Both Mark and I are people, people. More than anything, it’s not even about making money – it’s about making sure the customer is happy. You’re never going to please everyone all the time. But just be friendly, literally 90% of our customers at Level One are our friends now, and our social life is out of control.

We try to keep things interesting and we do get criticised, but you have to accept that, move on, and do the best you can in everything you do, and just be nice.

We’ve got some degustations lined up and we’re hoping to get a few other restaurants in town on board with a progressive lunch idea that we’re working towards.

Keep up with everything Deb and Mark have going on by following @din.dins, and @levelonewinebar on Instagram and Level One Cellars on Facebook.

Level One Wine Bar, Level One Cellars and Din Dins are all part of the AlburyCBD Gift Card program.

Carmen Connell
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All images supplied.