NEW ownership is an unlikely marketing call for three Bendigo cafes in one of the city’s most popular coffee precincts, but it has been necessary to convince customers the businesses are setting up for a new era.
Renewed energy has replaced the confusion and negativity that accompanied the very public ending of a group of linked holding companies that a year ago owned and operated all three cafes, only to sell all three in the past seven months to separate buyers, in order to pay creditors.
Now, the proprietors of Bath Lane Cafe and the Green Olive Cafe in Bath Lane, and Finders Keepers around the corner in Mitchell Street, are working to draw people back to the coffee and shopping precinct below the landmark Bendigo and Adelaide Bank building.
They also want to reinforce the fact that all three cafes have new owners, despite concerns raised by some customers that this was not the case.
The three cafes also share a common desire to reconnect to the wider precinct and to draw people back.
Finders Keepers manager Maurizio Biasi said he visited neighbouring businesses every day to invite proprietors and employees in to test the buzz in the cafe he is trying to create.
“We want to let people know we are accountable and we want to make the business better,” he said.
Mr Biasi, who has made a career in hospitality, was asked by the cafe’s new Melbourne-based owners to return and reinvigorate the business, after the venue was forced to close for several months following the sale.
It reopened only five weeks ago.
“What I am trying to do is to be relevant to the surrounding businesses and community,” Mr Biasi said, adding that buying from local suppliers as much as possible was part of the return plans.
He said front of house and kitchen staff had been supportive of the new owners.
“We want to feel like we are part of (the reinvigoration),” Mr Biasi said.
All the cafes have retained an element of customer connection through the familiar faces of staff, many of whom have been reemployed or employed by another cafe in the precinct.
Green Olive owner Aaron Argus is happy to acknowledge that his name, and his sister Libby’s, are a major drawcard for Bath Lane regulars.
“Aaron and Libby are back” is scrawled across the cafe’s front window.
But he is not prepared to rely on the weight of his 12 years of barista experience at the Green Olive, and Libby’s six.
Mr Argus said he shut the cafe for a week after purchase, and gave it a facelift.
In the past month, it had been a matter of reintroducing the familiarities and efficiencies of a family-led business, as well as bringing back good service.
“This place worked best when it was run by a family,” Mr Argus said.
“That is why when this came up, I wanted Libby to come back with me.”
There is an acknowledgement of competition between all three businesses, and of wanting to exploit the offerings that differentiate them, but Mr Argus said it also worked as a business strategy to look after neighbours.
“The better one cafe does, the better for all of us,” he said.
Next door at Bath Lane Cafe, manager Chrissy Scott is appreciative her new owners are successful in business.
“I have learned so much already,” Ms Scott said, having worked for them since the changeover in October.
Ms Scott is also a Bath Lane veteran but she was pleased to note the new owners had plans for the business, details of which she was not giving away, not to the competition. Ms Scott is as determined to reinvigorate the precinct.
“We want to get Bath Lane back to what it used to be,” she said.
The smiles are returning to the faces of people who own and manage the three cafes mixed up in the business failure of three holding companies linked to Paul Moran.
Meanwhile, Mr Moran has opened in a new location, renamed Solsbury Hill at the site of the former Hashtag restaurant in Strathdale which its former owner put into administration in 2016.
– Sharon Kemp