By Jarryd Barca
Popular Rutherglen café Silver Key officially re-opened its doors on the weekend, nearly 16 months after a devastating blaze destroyed the iconic takeaway shop.
It took months of planning with Indigo Shire to get approvals and plans, before beginning to rebuild the shop in late March this year.
Store owner Dawn Leahy was in Melbourne on the night a deep fryer caught flames in the more-than 100-year-old building on main street and recalled the shattering moment she heard of the news.
“(My son) Chev and I were watching the Carlton game at the M CG when my daughter Justine called and said there was an issue with the fryer,” She told The Free Press.
“I was in shock. When Chev showed me the photos of the flames coming through the roof, I was in pure shock.
“I walked from the MCG back to where we were staying in Richmond, and to this day I can’t remember getting there.”
Ms Leahy said her main worry was customers and workers in the shop at the time receiving potential injuries, but luckily everyone got out.
The Leahy family has had the café for 19 years, meaning there were lots of personal items in there, including automobile memorabilia and wedding telegrams, that turned into charcoal.
“It’s been a really big family effort to get it back up and running,” Ms Leahy said.
“Chev has helped out a lot with the logo design and also the lighting, Justine did the colour-coordinating.”
Ms Leahy said it was a very long process, but is relieved to finally be back working.
“We had lots of issues with insurance companies and there were lots of things we had to fix and replace, such as flooring, drainage and pipes,” she said.
Ms Leahy said the toughest thing to overcome throughout the grueling process was time.
“A week really goes nowhere,” she said.
“It took five and a half months of looking at plans but once we got that right we were up and running.”
Seeing the shop burn down “was a nightmare” according to Ms Leahy, however with the new modern feel to the shop, it could also be described as a “blessing in disguise”.
“We’ve been able to implement different things around the place such as a new cool room and toilet room,” she said.
“We had to bring the store to the 2018 requirements, so we’ve had to include a wheelchair ramp, which is fine because we have a great little area out the front where people can sit.”
The place may look different and up to date, but the food quality is much the same.
“We do have a lot more seating and we’ve decided to do a coffee and cakes and slices area, but we still make our own chips and our own potato cakes. We cut our own fish and batter it all ourselves, so everything is still freshly made.”
Silver Key was always a busy and popular store and, throughout its recess, Ms Leahy experienced a lot of locals anxious for the shop to be back up and running.
“People around town have been approaching and wondering when we’re opening... one person said they’ve been having to buy frozen fish from the supermarket (with disappointment),” she said.
“It’s a huge sense of relief having the store finished, up to date and being opened again. Everything is signed off now, no more documents. We’re ready to go.”
Ms Leahy thanked the many “great people” who helped revitalise the café, from firefighters, construction workers and builders, insurance companies and locals.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all of our old customers and new ones too, seeing people we haven’t in a long time,” she said.
More than two years ago, the shop was voted the best fish and chip shop in the north-east during a competition run by radio station 3NE/EDGE FM in Wangaratta.
Silver Key Café is open from 7.30am-8.30pm seven days a week.