Floating our boat
SIX years after the devastating fire which burnt down Knight’s Garage housing Henrietta’s cafe and gift store in Bair Street Leongatha, the large floor space is about to be rented out again.
Hobie Kayaks, water sports and lifestyle equipment will be showcased when Rod Bending’s World comes to fill a big gap in Bair Street.
The business will remain in Inverloch but will have a massive showroom in which to expand to in Leongatha.
Owner of the business David Walsh said he was looking at either Wonthaggi or Leongatha to expand to but saw great benefits of having the store in Leongatha.
“Leongatha is just one hour from Wilsons Promontory, one hour from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, 15 minutes to Inverloch and less than an hour to Latrobe Valley,” Mr Walsh said.
“Wonthaggi is becoming more like what I’d call a suburban town whereas I really like the country town atmosphere of Leongatha so I decided to establish in this town.”
Mr Walsh plans to only showcase the kayaks and other water sports gear and not the fishing side of the business.
It is not known whether the planned refurbishment of Bair Street is part of Mr Walsh’s reason for the move but having a large business take a space in Bair Street is certainly a step in the right direction.
Mr Walsh said he liked the fact Leongatha offered large shops, given big premises were difficult to find in Inverloch and Wonthaggi.
South Gippsland Shire Council is currently working with Mr Walsh to have a few planning issues finalised as soon as possible.
Owner of the building Tony Westaway said he was delighted to finally have a tenant in the building after rebuilding Knight’s Garage after the devastation of the fire in May 2010.
“We’ve been trying really hard to get someone in here and approached many of the big players over the years like Rivers, Godfreys, Supercheap Auto, and a large bakery like Beechworth Bakery but didn’t quite get them over the line,” Mr Westaway said.
Mr Westaway said he had no doubts Leongatha could forge itself as a great stopover, boutique country town for tourists passing through on their way to the Prom and other destinations.
Planned improvements to Bair Street, the current starting point for The Great Southern Rail Trail and proposals for the railway land will all help cement Leongatha as a tourist town, Mr Westaway believed.
“The new Hobie Kayak centre will be good for Leongatha and something different for our town,” he said.
“I think with the railway land we need to create trailer parking for people towing boats, caravans and trailers, giving them somewhere to stop. Meeniyan has been able to do this very well and look at how that town is going.”
Mr Westway said as a landlord he has come to the party in terms of rent.
“I realise that landlords have to drop their prices and I have significantly dropped the rent on this building to attract a tenant. Tenants have high occupancy costs and that includes shire rates which I believe are way too high for the commercial and retail sector,” he said.
Once the planning issues have been finalised, it is hoped the new Rod Bending’s World will come to Leongatha in mid-March.
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