The cafe that spawned an empire and helped put a tired strip of Bronte on the culinary map has closed. Three Blue Ducks – which grew into a powerhouse of venues stretching from Melbourne to Byron Bay – has shut its original Bronte operation.
Co-owner Darren Robertson said a number of factors came into play in the decision. The onetime jewel of the Ducks' empire had become its smallest cog; a renewed focus on expansion within the group elsewhere and "none of us lives there anymore".
"In some ways we've kept it for nostalgia," he added. When the shopfront opened on a busy stretch of Macpherson Street 11 years ago, it wasn't the powerhouse strip it is today where visitors and locals queue for Iggys Bread, Huxton's or a bite at the Ducks.
Interestingly, it traded through the latest lockdown selling takeaway. Robertson said the plan now is to sell it, with a chunk of those funds going to Plastic Free Bronte.
"We've just come out of this (lockdown) and hope it's attractive," he said.
The group will re-focus its attention on its larger Rosebery venue. Robertson confirmed the neighbouring space in the Rosebery warehouse (previously a Koskela retail showroom) has been taken by Aldi. "A wall will go up, but we're expanding upstairs where we can put in a bar and event space."
Balancing its Byron Bay farm, wine bar and venues spanning the eastern seaboard had been challenging during the events of the past 18 months, Robertson said, and the partners came to the realisation they'd "outgrown" the Bronte site.
Will they reopen if it doesn't sell? "It will sell," he said.