What do a pub, Spanish restaurant and an accounting firm have in common? They have all been former incarnations of the site which now houses the recently opened Little Big Sugar Salt café in Victoria Street, Abbotsford.
Over many years and numerous renovations the building had been subdivided into five separate tenancies with a wall splitting the building in half down the middle and a set of stairs slicing the building in half again, which posed a number of challenges for the owners of this now cranking café.
‘For starters, there wasn’t a single right angle or square level in the whole block, thanks to all the dodgy renovations carried out in an era where building codes didn’t exist’, says co-owner, Morgan.
‘The floorboards are probably the element I’m most proud of’, said Morgan, ‘because the timber has been sourced from an old house just before it was demolished. The boards are probably over 100 years old so most of its connecting pieces were destroyed, meaning re-laying the floor was a huge challenge – all up it took us about three weeks to lay when it should’ve only taken a few days’.
With a limited budget but big ideas, the owners saved costs on the fittings and furniture by designing and building much themselves, using discarded eight metre-long pieces of Oregon wood to construct the benches, communal tables and shelving.
‘ We all loved the look of old Oregon wood so we were lucky enough to source a number of beams from a demolition site – it’s just not something you can buy brand new these days due to costs and fabrication methods so we were incredibly fortunate to be working with such beautiful pieces of timber’, Morgan said.
But the real surprise came in the form of the copper scrapyard to the rear of the building where the owners were able to source a collection of twisted treasure from the scrap heap and repurpose it in the kitchen and seating areas.
Careful not to accidentally encourage a shabby-chic revival, the owners then offset the recycled materials with sleek steel beams and copper cladding in the bar to seamlessly meld the old with the new.
A few electric blue neon accents keep everyone guessing in this industrial-meets-recycled, raw-meets-weathered café interior, while artworks for sale from Metro Gallery line the hallways.
The owners have shown a whole lot of love for local talent, with illustrations drawn by local artist, Aaron Tyler and furniture pieces hand crafted by another friend and Melbourne local, Jason all perfectly at home in the space.
And judging by the crowds spewing out of the café in the first few weeks since the launch, this love for the locals has been repaid in spades.