30 May 2023

Slice of history served up in new life for old farming favourite in Wongawilli

| Kellie O'Brien
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new cafe in old dairy

Blessed with glorious surroundings, Smiths Ln Dairy is a cafe and general store in an old dairy in Wongawilli. Photo: Smiths Ln Dairy.

With a paddock-to-plate philosophy, the new owners of a cafe housed in a former dairy plan to expand the business to match the growing Wongawilli community it’s based in.

A month ago, Lube Markovski, his daughter Melissa and son-in-law Rob Gorgievski took over Smiths Ln Dairy.

Developer Sheargold had a vision to create a community hub on a plot of land that included an old dairy, the original homestead now open for tours, and the development of a childcare centre.

Sheargold put the dairy out to tender two years ago and a local couple won it, opening Smiths Ln Dairy a year ago.

“They’ve done a really good job – it’s beautiful,” Lube said.

The space includes the cafe, inside the old dairy, featuring a paddock-to-plate menu courtesy of local farmers and producers. Within it is a general store where 80 per cent of its goods are sourced from the area.

Visitors can buy free-range, locally farmed eggs, homemade relishes, handmade artisanal breads and award-winning cheeses produced by South Coast dairies. Reusable milk bottles can even be used for locally sourced full-cream milk straight from dispensers.

The reusable glass bottles are part of a focus on sustainability, which also includes fully recyclable products and composting.

The history of the place has been captured beneath a glass floor inside the dairy, with artefacts from the original dairy farm owners placed underneath for viewing.

“A lot of locals come through here and say, ‘I used to chase cows around there’ or ‘I used to milk the cows in here’,” Lube said.

New cafe in old dairy

Artefacts from the original dairy farm that now houses the Smiths Ln Dairy are under a glass floor for visitors to view. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

In the play area, kids can interact with nature in an educational way – exploring native plants and natural products.

“The concept was really simple. Come in, sit down and watch your kids play while you’re having breakfast,” Lube said.

“Now, it’s become a community hub.”

The challenge with the venue was the area being heritage listed, and developing a commercial business with heritage regulations in mind.

After 12 months, the previous owners weren’t able to continue with the business, so Lube, Melissa and Rob saw the opportunity and took it.

“We really loved the atmosphere, the environment, and thought we could do a lot with it. Everything that we are is family-orientated,” Lube said, referencing his other businesses, Grill’d Healthy Burgers restaurants and Charli and Kate Hair Company salons and online haircare shopping platform.

“I’ve got my son and my daughter, and the whole family work in the businesses.”

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He said they would continue to stock and use quality local produce, and ensure it catered to the Wongawilli community, which has grown to 20,000 homes.

“We’ve found in the past four weeks, it’s actually a destination point as well,” he said.

“A lot of people from Kiama, Shellharbour and surrounding suburbs like Kanahooka hop in the car and come to enjoy the countryside for the day.”

Plans include more outdoor tables and building a vegetable garden.

“What we were looking at was very much the Grounds of Alexandria-type concept,” he said.

New cafe in old dairy

Lube Markovski and his daughter and son-in-law have taken over a cafe in a former dairy, with plans to grow the business. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

On busy days, those who don’t want to wait for a table due to the limitations on space can grab picnic blankets, throw rugs and cushions with ground stakes and umbrellas to tie up the family dog and relax under massive old trees on the lawn.

“People are used to coming in and setting up their blankets and having a picnic just underneath the trees,” Lube said.

“Part of the concept moving forward is definitely having more seating – big picnic tables under those trees.”

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While the venue has reduced to five-day trading, the long-term goal is to return to seven-day trading once the team has been rebuilt. It will also look to acquire a liquor licence.

“The opportunity to have a glass of wine at lunchtime while you’re overlooking the mountainside and the sun is setting, it’s just magnificent,” Lube said.

“A lot of people keep saying, ‘Is there any way that I can get a glass of wine?’ There are some great local wineries we love, and being a local cafe with local wines and beers is a big part of what Smiths Ln Dairy is all about.”

The venue also hosts events including live music, outdoor cinemas, kids’ cooking classes and book club meetings.

For more information, visit Smiths Ln Dairy, where you can also order your coffee and treats in advance.

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