28Eighty –Broken Hill Airport’s only cafe – will be shutting up shop this Sunday afternoon following repeated attempts to find a buyer in the last 12 months.
Café owner Craig Ferguson – who bought the operation in October 2020 with partner, Jodie – hopes it’s a temporary closure though, having had discussions with a keen buyer as recently as Wednesday night.
However, Mr Ferguson admits he’s wearing out, with the requirement for knee surgery having been put off for a while limiting his ability to take significant time away, now figuring, “the time is right for us”.
“We’ve been here now – it has gone so fast – for two and a half years at the end of this month. And basically, I’m wearing out, to be honest. I’ve carried on for as long as I can,” he told the Truth.
“There’s a couple of planes on the weekend, but basically, we’re just running the front of house and we’ll start tidying everything up. And when we pull the shutters down on Sunday, we’ll be leaving them down.
“It was always our intention to build up the business, get it into a saleable state and then move it on. We’ve had discussions with a couple of people and it just hasn’t got across the line. As recent as [Wednesday] night, we spoke to someone who is, we believe, fairly interested in the place, so anything could happen at the 11th hour, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Mr Ferguson says that since they bought the cafe it’s continued to build into the thriving space it’s known as today, aided by travellers to and from Broken Hill, but also dedicated locals who dine in for breakfast, lunch, or something in between.
Offering a 100 % walk-in, walk-out arrangement, Mr Ferguson is also willing to show interested buyers the ropes if needed.
“We just thought the place is in really good condition, it’s busier than it’s ever been, and we just thought we’d like to see someone young or at least keen to come in and take over from what we’ve made. It’s great value. We’re motivated to sell because we want to see the place open.
“For anyone out there who’s looking to get into hospitality at the moment, it’s a fantastic place. It’s a good-sized venue, we’ve got established socials, an established website, an established following, our brand’s strong, but I don’t think there’s anything that can’t be improved. A fresh set of eyes and some new ideas, come in and change up the menu, just have a bit of a play around.
“It’s a good time of year coming into autumn, it’s the busiest tourist time for Broken Hill – and we think we’ve done a power of work with the place and got a really good reputation, and good name, and it’s really popular with the locals. It’s amazing. People can’t believe that they have to book a table in an airport to have some lunch. And that’s how it is every day.”
Mr Ferguson says there’s a raft of benefits to owning a café, and especially one at an airport, as he sees and experiences the high volume of people that come through for a drink or a bite to eat – including plenty of celebrities having their picture taken in front of the ‘celebrity wall’.
“It’s the appreciation and the feedback that we get from everyone that comes here. The town needs this place, we’ve discovered that. They’re all so grateful for everything we’ve done and we feel pretty bad about actually closing. But it’s time, we’ve got to do some stuff for ourselves now,” he says.
“I’d really like to stress how grateful we are with the support that we’ve had from the community. We wouldn’t have made it through some of the tough times that we’ve had with Covid and disrupted flight schedules and all that if it wasn’t for the local support that we’ve had.
“The relationships we’ve made with the community and the opportunity to meet some great people, to work with some great people and do what we’ve loved doing, it’s been really good. The whole team is going to miss the place, and they’re going to miss the people. So, just thanks to our wonderful community. I think that’s about all we can really say.”