After serving tourists, art lovers, gallery staff and all comers to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Sara Kittelty of Kittelty's cafe has decided it's time to try something new.
The much-loved coffeshop, cafe, and specialist cake store, renowned for giving many people from varied backgrounds a start in hospitality - and for making its food from scratch on the premises - will not reopen with the AGB on July 1.
"The lease for the premises was up at the end of the financial year, so we've put the last six months aside to see how we were going to be anyway, and once coronavirus shut things down it spiralled any turnover that we did have," Ms Kittelty says.
The pandemic lockdown has meant the number of staff Ms Kittelty could employ upon reopening would not have been enough to keep the business viable.
It's also been a non-stop part of her life for its duration.
"Being in that space, running it seven days a week as a family-based business: well there are only so many hours in the day," Ms Kittelty says.
"We've been at the gallery four-and-a-half years, and in that time I think I've had two weeks' holiday. There's also been a lot of competition in the cafe space in Ballarat in the last year-and-a-half, so while we were lucky to be in the gallery and have tourists that were coming to Ballarat, there is a lot more competition."
Not that Sara Kittelty is complaining.
"There's no doubt it's been absolutely successful," she says of Kittelty's.
"I'm not a chef, but I love cooking. A lot of other cafes may buy things in, whereas we made everything in house. I'm just not sure how we could have done it with fewer staff and remained financially viable."
Opening in mid-2015, Kittelty's gave students and others looking to learn about the hospitality trade an opportunity to get behind the counter. At its peak, the cafe was employing up to 17 people.
"Some were kids and students with limited availability, but we had great relationships with organisations like A Pot of Courage and Women's Health Grampians," Ms Kittelty says.
"Lots of those women came through and did work experience; a lot of people came through the Return to Work job programs. So hopefully we helped them along the way."
Sara is already planning her future expansion.
"We've really been wanting to push cake sales, which is my first and foremost passion of cooking, so (lockdown) really gave us the chance to get online and push sales there, to see if I can be in space where I can do that and doesn't require me to be there seven days a week. I'm going to work from home in the short term, and then look for a small cake and coffee shop."
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