A letter to the editor from the owners of the proposed new cafe on the foreshore

I have been trying to avoid getting into a public debate over our proposed little cafe on the foreshore but with the prevalence of misinformation that seems to be going round I feel that I have no choice but to put our side across.

We went to the council a little over twelve months ago with a proposal for a small container based surf styled cafe on the foreshore. Knowing that the council and the public did not want another large venue dominating our wonderful foreshore our proposal was such that it could be removed at the end of its lease should that be deemed appropriate. Also by being small we were able to position the footprint in such a way as to not block the view of the sea from foreshore drive or forrest street. This was very important to us as we wanted to be a part of the Foreshore not to dominate it. We feel what we will offer is the perfect compliment to the BBQ areas and public open space and not a threat to it. Imagine having a BBQ and being able to grab an ice-cream or a coffee to finish it off?

One of the main issues that seems to be going around at the moment is the amount of rent being proposed and how it compares to the rents in Marine Terrace. This is very unfair, what we are renting is a piece of bare land. Unlike a shop which comes with walls, a roof, power connection, water connection, sewerage connection and quite often air-conditioning, we are in effect renting a car parking space. In fact the area proposed at 8mx3m is only slightly larger than a car bay. And this area includes an enclosed bin storage area so no visitor to our wonderful foreshore has to see wheely bins. Most shops simply put their bins out the back and don’t have this included in their rentable space. Also the figure being mentioned in the press was arrived at by the council after having the land independently valued for rent in its current state, it was not our suggestion.

What has also been missed in the debate is the very high cost of these basic connections. The reason the council has proposed renting the space to us as unimproved land is the fact that the costs of getting the connections to the site and the pad laid will be in excess of $60,000, again costs that no-one renting an existing shop has to deal with. This isn’t the cost of fitout which is normal for anyone renting a shop, this is the stuff under the ground that is in every building before a tenant moves in. That is the reason for my request for quite a long lease period. Although not long in comparison to a permanent brick built building it will allow this connection cost to be recouped and should the council decide at the end of the lease to revert the land to open space we would have to meet the expenses to ensure this happens and the land is like it is today once again. Not something that can be done with a traditional brick build as it could not be picked up and taken away as our concept can be.

The argument as to why don’t we rent an existing shop is also quite unfair. We have our cafe in Marine Terrace, this cafe gives people our street side option in the CBD. A place to drive by drop in and grab a coffee or a jaffle and enjoy being in the heart of the city. What we want to offer on the foreshore is a completely different concept, albeit one that still sells great coffee and jaffles.

We want to create a beach shack where you can hang after a swim, while walking the dog or simply hang watching the kids enjoying the beach. We also want to bring good old fashioned garden games to the foreshore. We are going to offer giant jenga, quoits, totem tennis and maybe even croquet, free of charge with a small deposit so people are encouraged to stay and enjoy our beautiful foreshore. Just like our chess sets in our Marine Terrace site a great cafe brings people together and encourages them to view our CBD as a destination, not simply a place to grab some groceries and head home. Tourists also love it when they can interact with locals and feel like they are experiencing our bit of heaven. This can only happen in little places with their own personality and their own community of customers.

The last point I want to raise is in regards the assertion that we have been given favourable treatment and this should have gone to public tender. We came to the city with this idea, they did not come to us. We put a proposal to them that allowed a quiet end of the foreshore to be activated at no cost to the city and with a very small visual impact. We even proposed our cafe to be installed in such a way that should the Marina Stage two development or the PTA land development take off and more open space be needed to cater for additional inner city residents then we could simply get a crane in and take it away, returf the lawn and it would be back the way it is. No-one had come to the city with an idea anything like this so it was not an option for them to ask if anyone else wanted to do our idea, but to simply consider our idea on its merits which they did.

If we want Geraldton to reach its potential we need to embrace small boutique businesses that make us stand out from the crowd, particularly in regards tourism, this has to be our future with the downturn in the mining likely to last some time to come.

When Karen and I arrived in Geraldton nearly five years ago we fell in love with its CBD, the old buildings the beautiful foreshore and such friendly people. We opened our little gift shop soon after as we saw a gap in the market for products we had seen during our travels and the way it has been embraced so warmly by the residents has been very humbling.

Fleur and the Jaffle Shack then came about with the departure of the previous tenants and our belief that good food and great coffee was the ultimate way to bring people together and to the West End. An area which only two years ago was a very quiet part of the Terrace, in fact a part of the Terrace that many people in Geraldton had not visited in years.

Our firmly held belief is that the key to any business is being about more than just the business. The Jaffle Shack is all about community, from the very start we recycled all our plastic milk bottles, all our cardboard and built as much of our Shack as possible with reclaimed furniture and timber. We source all our food stuffs locally from Aussie Pastries bread to our Geraldton Fruit and Veg produce, we employ people who have never worked in hospitality before, doing training in house and sending as many of our kids as possible off for training to improve their skills. Between Fleur and the Shack we employ 30 amazing people who every day make us proud to be associated with them. In fact our team are so connected to our ethos that all their tips have been given to a charity of their collective choice since we opened.

It brings a tear to our eyes to see the West End buzzing every weekend now and to see visitors and locals alike just hanging out. It feels like a little bit of Freo right here in Geraldton.

Thats what we want to bring to the foreshore and hope that people who maybe now know the reality of our proposal will realise that a little Surf Shack on the Foreshore would be a great addition, not just for them as individuals but for the town and CBD as a whole.

Kind Regards
Christian & Karen Watters