Couple brings home a bit of down under

TV anchor and restaurateur back in Tucson, plan to open cantina, Aussie food truck
2013-05-19T00:15:00Z 2013-10-02T08:37:05Z Couple brings home a bit of down underGerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 19, 2013 12:15 am  • 

After years spent living halfway around the world, Sally Shamrell-Murphy and her husband, Glenn Murphy, are getting back into the swing of things in Tucson.

The power couple - Glenn, who owned and operated several area pubs and restaurants, and Sally, a former KVOA anchor and reporter - returned to town last November, trading in the sandy dunes of the Western Australian coast for the stately saguaros of Southern Arizona.

The Murphys returned to Tucson first and foremost to be closer to their parents. Shamrell's mom, Carol Shamrell, still lives in town. Glenn's father, the award-winning architect and contractor John Murphy, has called Santa Fe, N.M., home for the last three decades.

"They are in their golden years," Shamrell said.

It's a transition that, so far, has gone smoothly for the Murphys.

Glenn, an Australian native and seasoned veteran when it comes to opening new restaurants, is already working on his latest projects.

By the end of the month, his Aussie Rolls Food Truck will be making appearances at local roundups, serving traditional sausage rolls and Australian iced coffee drinks.

His second concept, a restaurant dubbed the Aussie Cantina, will be located in the old home of Rhino Pub at 1118 E. Sixth St. and will be open by the time the students start back at the University of Arizona in the fall.

The restaurant, just south of the university, will feature a "shed-chic" look, with patio seating, live music and two separate bars serving a sizable selection of wines and beer.

The food will be Aussie-themed: barramundi tacos, sausage rolls, meat pies, emu burgers.

"In Australia, the pub is the center of everything," Murphy said. "You go there for a meal, for entertainment. That is what we are building here."

In the meantime, Shamrell, who has been helping out with the restaurant's progress as the space undergoes extensive renovations, has returned to her roots.

Over the last two weeks, she has made several appearances as a fill-in co-host on "The Morning Blend" on KGUN Channel 9.

Shamrell was raised in Bisbee, went to the University of Arizona and worked for KVOA from 1995 to 2003. Before that, she served as the news director for KNST (790-AM).

"It kind of felt like home, which is good," Shamrell said of her recent KGUN appearances.

This new chapter for the Murphys is part of a story that has taken them across the globe and back again.

The two met during Shamrell's days at KVOA.

Shamrell was covering local live music hot spots for the station and Murphy owned the Backstage bar and concert venue on East Tanque Verde Road.

He also had stake in several other ventures in town, including the Rhino Pub.

The two felt an instant rapport.

"We had a similar sense of humor," Shamrell said.

Murphy eventually sold his businesses and moved back to Australia for family reasons.

Not long after that, Shamrell left KVOA to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles.

"I had this life epiphany," she said. "At the time, I didn't feel like I was meant to work in news. It can be a grind. You get involved emotionally in every story you cover. It can take its toll."

As Murphy continued to operate restaurants around Australia and in Thailand, Shamrell was serving as an extra on shows such as "Nip/Tuck" and "Boston Legal."

She appeared as a nurse twice, a doctor twice and a surgeon once on the CBS soap opera "The Young and the Restless."

"I was always in scrubs with a ponytail," she said. "My medical career was advancing by leaps and bounds."

She also played the part of a television reporter on the Dennis Hopper primetime series "Crash."

Murphy and Shamrell eventually reconnected. Their friendship quickly evolved into an international courtship, complete with regular trips between the United States and Australia.

Shamrell ended up moving to Western Australia, where she ran the social media side of Murphy's different bars and restaurants.

The couple returned to Tucson briefly to get married in 2009.

They plan to stay a bit longer this time around.

Together with his new operating partner Ralph Avella, a veteran of Hub, Kingfisher, Bluefin and Bistro Zin, Murphy has been putting in long hours at the Cantina space, working knee-deep in construction equipment to get it finished by the fall.

"Normally, we don't have much time to do something like this," Murphy said. "But since we are opening in August, we can enjoy the process."

Avella said he was intrigued by the idea of an Australian restaurant in Tucson.

"I have been to Australia and loved it," Avella said. "It is the number one place on my list to live if I could afford it."

Besides, he said, "Glenn has the right accent."

Murphy hopes to get the Cantina off the ground, then move on to his next idea, an Italian concept that he would like to open downtown.

If launched, the Italian spot would be his 40th project realized. He has already looked into several possible locations.

"I'm a big fan of downtown," he said. "People like Kade (Mislinski) have done a sensational job down there."

Shamrell hopes to look into local acting opportunities in the coming months and will continue to work on "The Morning Blend" when needed.

Andy Schwabe, marketing director for KGUN, said Shamrell is being considered among other candidates for a more permanent role on the show.

Either way, Shamrell is happy to be back.

"Everything has happened in the time it was supposed to happen," she said.

Watch the progress

• Follow the progress of the Aussie Rolls Food Truck at facebook.com/aussierolls and the Aussie Cantina at facebook.com/pages/Aussie-Cantina/464000310344892

"In Australia, the pub is the center of everything. ... You go there for a meal, for entertainment. That is what we are building here."

Glenn Murphy, restaurant developer

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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