By NATALIE KOTSIOS April 17, 2014
“ON a day like today, it’s beautiful around here,” said Albury’s Helen Grills, basking in the sun at Noreuil Park’s Riverdeck Cafe.
“It would be fantastic if it were open all the time,” said her friend, Anne Phegan.
The women are not alone in their thinking — the NSW government yesterday announced a $250,000 grant for the cafe’s proprietor, Alex Smit, to turn the summer cafe into a year-round attraction.
The grant comes from its Regional Visitor Economy Fund.
For Mr Smit, it’s been a long time coming — it was the fourth time he’d applied for a grant to realise his dream.
“I’m approached daily by people who hope we can stay open longer,” he said.
“I think if we can offer a cosy environment, with shelter, I don’t see why people wouldn’t want to come down.
“It’s such a beautiful place and we’ve always felt very privileged to work here — we often joke that we’ve got the best office in Albury.”
At lunchtime, the deck was full with families eating, people chatting over coffee and young people drinking milkshakes.
“The river frontage is beautiful, there is so much potential here, especially to attract tourists,” Mrs Phegan said.
Across the deck, Steve and Meg Webster — who moved from Albury to NSW’s southern highlands several years ago — agreed.
“It is such a great idea. It’s a great area,” Mrs Webster said.
“Even in winter, on a sunny day it’s lovely.”
Since taking over the site four years ago, Mr Smit has transformed it from a simple kiosk to a full-service cafe.
But turning Riverdeck into a year-round enterprise will take a lot more work — Mr Smit plans to extend the kitchen and dining areas and add shelter.
It means the cafe will close as usual for the winter this month but there are hopes it will be a full-time affair next year.
Albury mayor Kevin Mack was thrilled with Mr Smit’s news.
The council had resolved last May to re-classify the cafe’s land from operational to community, allowing it to be used year-round.
“It’s a real credit to Alex how he’s grown this space,” Cr Mack said.
“To make it all-weather is wonderful and it fits in with our Murray River experience plan.”
– Mayor Kevin Mack and River Deck Cafe proprietor Alex Smit toast the cafe’s funding boost to continue operations for the entire year. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON