A MUCH-LOVED Horsham cafe will close its doors on Friday.
Owner and manager, Lyn Witney-Drum, is moving Torquay and she is hopeful her beloved cafe won't stay closed for long.
Ms Witney-Drum plans to relocate the Chickpea name to Torquay. She says plans to keep her new business open for less of the year, allowing her to enjoy the sea change.
"I just really need a rest," she said.
"This is not a decision I have taken lightly at all, but (the cafe is) a huge demand on me and I have just reached the stage that I can't do it anymore and I want someone else to take over.
"This will hopefully give the opportunity to someone younger - a couple maybe wanting to fulfill a dream. It is not viable for me to employ a manager."
Ms Witney-Drum started the Pynsent Street institution in 1995, when she was newly married.
"Chickpeas had made very good money that year so we (Lyn and her now ex-husband Adrian) picked that name for a bit of fun," she said.
"Our summers have always been my favorite times. The early mornings, the vibe, the doors open and adrenaline rush of the holiday period is a magic time. I will miss this, but I will recreate it in Torquay.
"I have had some very faithful girls with beautiful souls who have been with me for nearly all my time. Watching them grow and blossom has been a delight.
"For some, Chickpea has been a revolving door as they come back between studies, travels and major family events. Hanna Mills came and left a few times. I certainly didn't do this all by myself."
She said her staff had helped her navigate her gradually decreasing hearing loss, first detected when she was 21.
"I have always missed the punch line in jokes and I think it made people deal with me differently, because I didn't respond how they expected," she said. "The introduction of text and email has really changed my life in that sense."
Ms Witney-Drum has 15-year-old son Leroy at home, another two sons, Darcy and Mitch, living in Melbourne. Darcy has a five-month-old son, Ollie.
Ms Witney-Drum sold Chickpea in 1996. She returned eight-and-a-half years ago.
She has lived in various Wimmera towns for the past 40 years - including with her parents Val and the late Ron Witney at Jeparit and Nhill.
In her 20s, Ms Witney-Drum worked in hospitality at roadhouses and bus tours across outback Western Australia.
"I lived in Fremantle and was hugely influenced by the cafe strip, the alfresco cafes and brilliant coffee and the cafe vibe," she said.
In the past 24 years, she has had two other food businesses in the Wimmera - Matzo Blue, which she sold to Jane Miller and Sharon Winter who created Horsham's Cafe Jas, and Banyena Foods in Donald.
"Banyena was an old haberdashery store which we bought and brought back to life," she said.
"It was the old-fashioned corner store - all pressed tin walls and roof and large verandah. It was beautiful, but the economics and population in Donald didn't allow me to have the type of cafe I really wanted to run.
"I saw the opportunity to come back to Chickpea and finish what I originally envisaged - and so I created the Chickpea I knew it could be and what we have today.
"I will still be producing part-time in my Banyena Foods Production Kitchen (formerly Kirsty's Catering) - even when I relocate to the coast."
Ms Witney-Drum reflected on the state of Horsham's hospitality industry. She said the city had too many cafes.
"Since I took over again in 2011, there have been another eight cafes and outlets selling coffee and food - but we have not gained a population to support that, and online shopping and online entertainment means there is less foot traffic," she said.
"The food industry is hard work and it's a numbers and quality game. It takes a lot of coffee to meet a $300-an-hour accountant fee.
"(Then there's) the superannuation, public holidays and staff entitlements ... although I don't begrudge them, the customers must understand they are a huge cost to a small business."
Chickpea employs 13 people and Ms Witney-Drum said some had secured new employment ahead of the business' closure.
She thanked her customers for their support.
"Although I have nothing yet to announce, I am in talks with several parties and I believe the cafe will only be closed for a short time until another energised party comes along," she said.
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