Two days ago, a power point at the back of the building, which had the hot water service plugged into it, shorted out and sparked, setting fire to the outside wall.
“I spent six to seven days there, every week for six years and now all of a sudden, because of one little power point, my life has basically changed over night,” says co-owner Richard Anstee.
Anstee is the cafe’s second owner; he bought the venue six years ago. He’s touched by the outpouring of support he’s received from customers.
“We’ve had guests in tears, I’ve had so many messages and texts on Facebook, and on my mobile, it’s just incredible. You know people love the place when they take the time to actually send you a condolence message. I’m humbled by their loyalty and love,” he says.
Some of Anstee’s customers were at the Middle Park Hotel when the fire broke out, and were among the first to call in the blaze, which was exacerbated by Monday’s strong winds. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) trucks arrived three to four minutes after the report, at about 10.30pm. An investigator later told Anstee that had the MFB arrived three to five minutes later than it did the entire building would have been lost.
“It’s just gone boom very quickly. Being an old wooden building, it had all the right traits to create a fairly big inferno,” says Anstee.
It took more than two dozen fire fighters – tackling the blaze from inside the building – about 30 minutes to get the fire under control. Unfortunately they were unable to avoid serious damage to the structure. The bathroom, storeroom and back of the kitchen were destroyed, but luckily the bulk of the old building has survived.
Despite his life being thrown into turmoil, Anstee is, admirably, doing his best to see the positives in the situation.
“When you go in and slug it out every day, sometimes you think: ‘Why am I doing this?’ Then something like this happens and you realise why you’re doing it,” he says.
Anstee plans to rebuild and is currently dealing with his insurance company. He believes the building is heritage listed but is unsure at this stage how that will affect the rebuild.
“We’re at the mercy of that a little bit. Whether it’s retrievable or whether it’s not. We’re very passionate and we want to put it back together if we can.”