It takes a while to build character in a café, and not everyone can achieve it. Though for Chapel on Little Ryrie, originally functioning as a Baptist church since it opened in 1857, the building simply oozes charm.
The buildings past lingers with the baptismal font exposed below through a clear section in the flooring, the high arched ceiling and the aged wood throughout, though it’s the quirky additions like the quote ‘Thou God Seest Me’ on the far wall as you enter that make the Chapel the popular eatery that it is.
Part of the colourful and modern additions to the venue are thanks to owner Ben De Rosso, who took over the building two and a half years ago with his partner Natasha – who works as head chef.
“I just came in and brought a bit more colour and liveliness to it: all the art stuff, the colour, the vines, tables and chairs. Just to bring in a bit more homeliness and friendliness to it,” he says.
Adding an even homelier touch to the café are the homemade treats that sit in the front counter teasing each customer that approaches. Wanting to keep it simple, Ben made sure that each slice was a family favourite and one that evoked memories of the past.
“I was a little scared at the start because we were making slices that everyone knew, and we thought maybe that was a bit too much, there wasn’t that ‘wow factor’,” he says.
“But to be honest our biggest sellers are the comfort ones, the ones that everyone knows. I love that fact that people can have something and let us know that they used to make that or their grandma did – it’s good to have something like that. To be able to bring back a memory for them means we’re doing something right.”
Beyond creating memories through their treats at the counter, the Chapel is also a venue for hire. Catering for functions ranging from engagement parties to corporate events.
“It’s pretty amazing because there’s not many venues in Geelong where you can have it purely as a functions venue without having something else like a pub downstairs interfering. When they hire it, it’s completely theirs and they have it the whole time,” Ben says.
While Ben has put much thought into creating the atmosphere of the café, he looks forward to seeing how each person reinterprets the space with their personal additions.
All in all, Chapel on Little Ryrie is about making memories, whether it’s as a church in the 19th century, while having lunch with friends or as the sun sets during an engagement party.
Where: 10 Little Ryrie Street, Geelong
When: Mon-Fri 7.30am-3pm
Phone: 5222 6905
Functions: Functions cater for 120-150 standing or 100 for a formal sit down. The space also features outdoor decking which can be opened to through bi-fold doors.
Written by Amanda Sherring, Photographed by Thoughtbox Photography