A historical connection has paid dividends for the owners of a Mandurah cafe. Adam Orlando reports
THE owners of a Mandurah cafe with a strong historical connection are targeting the tourism market following a recent renovation.
Part of the building housing Café Pronto was the original Eureka Cottage, built in the 1850s to commemmorate the uprising in Victoria, while additions to the original structure were added in about 1915.
A 12-month, $1.7 million renovation has given the cafe a 21st century feel, while maintaining its integrity as one of only a few restaurants to be recognised as an historical site.
After careful planning and a fit-out that required specialist builders and architects, the revamped new premises can seat 300 patrons, making it Mandurah’s largest cafe.
Owners Kerry and Tracey Brown have recognised the competitive advantage the site’s rich history offers and are promoting the cafe more as a tourist destination than simply a dining venue.
And it seems to be a winning strategy, with the cafe taking silver at the recent WA Tourism Awards in the tourism restaurants and catering services category.
“We [Mandurah] play host to nearly two million day trippers every year, who spend around $200 million,” Mr Brown, a WA Business News 40under40 Award winner, told Gusto.
“They are attracted to our waterways and lifestyle and are kept busy visiting the many interesting businesses and attractions within the Peel region.
“Our cafe provides a link to the past with our photos showing Mandurah in the 1800s and early 1900s.
“Many people took holidays here from Perth and the farms from the 1950s when Mandurah was a sleepy fishing village, and they enjoy revisiting the past.”
So important is the historical link to the business, the Browns have worked hard in the past 12 months to take an active role in tourism development for Mandurah, sitting on council committees aimed at developing the tourism market, as well as participating in the inaugural Peel Tourism Exchange staged earlier this year.
Mr Brown is also actively lobbying the local council to re-open the southern end of Mandurah Terrace as a two-way street.
The cafe’s historic links also have sentimental value for the long-term Mandurah resident, a descendent of one of the first families to settle in the town.
Mr Brown’s grandfather was a commercial fisherman on the estuary and this connection with food and community spirit continues today with Café Pronto.
But the dream to own the venue almost never turned to reality after the Browns’ first attempt to purchase it in 1992 failed because they were unable to raise enough finance.
In a strategy to raise the capital, in 1993 the couple bought nearby run-down eatery Blue Bay Fish and Chips for $30,000. They refurbished the shop and grew its customer base, then sold the business for $88,000 in 1994.
With the profit from that sale they bought Café Pronto later that year.
In the years since, the Browns have focused on a strategy to grow and promote the cafe as a tourist venue, able to cater for a range of requirements – from intimate dinners for two to corporate and family functions, engagements and weddings.
There are also plans to expand the alfresco area to the back carpark, subject to council approval.
Last year, the cafe underwent a massive restructure, with a new menu, pricing reviews undertaken, marketing initiatives adapted, and some changes to services, such as live entertainment.
The cafe has also diversified to offer a range of new products, such as Café Pronto beers, and was recently granted a tavern licence.
With an ability to innovate in every area of the business, the Browns have won a number of awards and accolades over the years, including the 2008 National Tourism Award for tourism restaurants and catering services, and the 2008 Alcoa Australia Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award.