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‘Rug pulled from under us’: couple may have to sell home after cafe’s closure

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The owners and customers of a cafe at a popular retail precinct have expressed their dismay and disappointment after it was essentially forced to close.

Christines Cafe at Caloundra Shopping Centre was shut in mid-January after the lease was not renewed.

Terry Shepperd, who owned and operated the store with his wife Christine, said they weren’t given an opportunity to stay, and they were gutted that their three-year venture came to a halt.

“It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to serve you … we will miss you all,” they said via social media.

“To make it very clear, there was no discussions or negotiations regarding a new lease. We were clearly told there would be no offer of a lease and our time was up as we were underperforming.”

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

Sunshine Coast News approached centre management for comment but has not received a response.

A petition signed by about 650 people failed to lure centre management to the negotiating table.

The Caloundra West couple took over an existing cafe there in 2021, after Mr Shepperd used his father’s inheritance to make it possible, and they renamed it after Christine.

“All business is a gamble, and I had no history in the industry, but we were determined to offer good old-fashioned service as our point of difference,” he said.

They were promptly taken aback by the costs of refurbishing the 101sqm site and running the business, and then the pandemic took a toll.

“Unfortunately, we bought the cafe just before the brunt of the COVID restrictions came in and we had to close during the shutdown mandates,” he said.

He said most of their takings went to rent, and they were fortunate to reach an agreement with previous managers to pay less.

Christine’s Cafe, pictured before its closure.

But they ultimately fell in rental arrears, which Mr Shepperd said was a consequence of COVID shutdowns and the reluctance from many older customers to return in the wake of it.

He said their fortunes turned around and the business became sustainable in the second half of 2023, but they were told to close by January 31.

He said he and his wife would probably head into retirement earlier than they would like.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to sell our home to cover our debts from this,” he said.

Mr Shepperd said it was a shame they had to close the cafe as it was getting back on track.

“In the last three to six months it was finally turning around, and we could see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“After three years of hard work the cafe was finally self-generating. The shop was busy all day with people lined up to get a seat during lunch times.

“Things were finally turning around and had a positive direction (but) the rug was pulled out from under us without any opportunity to negotiate our survival.”

Former customers expressed their discontent at the store’s closure to Sunshine Coast News.

Christine’s Cafe served up ‘amazing’ coffees.

“Christine’s Cafe is one of only two places in the shopping complex where you can sit and be served your meal at the table,” Debbie Hogan said.

“Good food, reasonably priced, friendly atmosphere. People should have a choice.”

Allan and Marilyn Nicholl, who moved to Baringa after many years living at Moffat Beach, said they still preferred to shop at the centre and visit Christine’s Cafe.

“When we found out they were told to vacate by the end of January we wrote to centre management, expressing our disgust, saying we would never set foot in that place again if the cafe is forced out,” they said.

Lynne Clements said she and her husband were disappointed.

“We enjoyed lunches and coffees there regularly and it was a good addition to the shopping centre. It gave us a reasonable alternative to another large cafe in the centre,” she said.

Philip Benjamin said the loss of Christine’s would “lower the tone of the shopping experience” at the complex.

“It is my preferred venue,” he said.

Brodie Millers said she was “sad to see them go”.

“They had excellent customer service and the coffees and the food were amazing. The ham and cheese sandwich was so good and the cappuccinos I absolutely loved,” she said.

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