I was three weeks pregnant when I chanced upon a café for sale on Gumtree. My partner (and chef) Kenny and I had talked about him branching out on his own. We hadn’t talked about opening a café though. We thought we would start small, offer catering and start from home.
I’d had a couple of these kinds of ideas before, opportunities I’d discovered in random places, and usually Kenny wasn’t a fan. When I told him about this place for sale in Fremantle, his interest was piqued and he agreed to come and have a look. What greeted us as we approached was the overpowering smell of old frying oil, tacky décor and greasy food on offer – typical of a lunch bar in an industrial area.
What we saw beneath its exterior was a site and a location full of promise, so our journey to Little Hawk Freo began. We knew that the odds were stacked against us on many levels; we were expecting our first baby, we were off the beaten track in a location not many knew about, and we’d never opened a business of this kind before. We were also opting for a different approach. We weren’t interested in the fashionable tastes that seemed to proliferate Perth’s dining scene (insert pulled pork here), but for whole, simple food, using fresh and quality ingredients. Could we make this succeed?
What appealed to us most about this spot was its authenticity. While we both love Fremantle, its gritty port-city backbone has become obscured by a constant stream of trendy hipster hangouts, all offering a slight variation on the same theme. What we could see was the potential to bring people to a working area to enjoy delicious coffee and food while observing another side of our city.
From that fateful first viewing, it was six weeks until we opened our doors and Little Hawk Freo was born.
A Strang[e] location
Aside from the fact that we love Little Hawk Freo’s location, with its elevated position and delightful alfresco area that welcomes the Fremantle Doctor so beautifully, situated just one kilometre from the beach, we’re also set smack-bang in the middle of a thriving range of local businesses. What you may not immediately see as you enter our little part of the world is that beneath our hub’s industrial exterior lies an area full to the brim of creative enterprises with tradespeople and craftspeople of all walks of life.
It’s like a diamond in the rough, you just need to scratch beneath its surface.
Our little part of the world houses traditionally industrial businesses like marine, automotive, scaffolding and storage, as well as a really large range of other enterprises. Food operators such as Eat No Evil and Roogenics have their headquarters here. There’s also nature tourism operators Inspiration Outdoors, landscapers Sustainable Outdoors, environmental consultants Range to Reef, and natural skincare specialists Mother Earth Aromatherapy. The Rug Studio have opened a warehouse down the road with plans to have a showroom open to the public.
Directly behind our café are the creative geniuses responsible for the design and creation of the life-size blue whale playground recently installed at the Scarborough Beach foreshore. Handwriting signmaker Paul Scully and graphic designers Go Graphics are nestled amongst us, as are artists Angela Stewart and Penny Coss.
Tucked away behind the scaffolding at Oldfields are Fremantle Movers, who also have spaces on site for people looking to start up small businesses, creatives, arts and music.
Over the years, the Strang Street precinct has changed, and it’s still changing. What once housed mainly industrial businesses like the now abandoned Transperth depot, wool stores, market gardens and the Portuguese Club; is now morphing into a higher density and mixed use residential area. Over the next five to 10 years, many of its industrial functions will cease to exist in this location and will be replaced. Into the future, people will forget that this, like many other pockets around Fremantle, contained anything else besides traditional inner-city functions.
By moving into this slightly obscure spot, we’ve seen our own community change.
While we were treated with suspicion by many of the local businesses when we first opened for being a little different to what they were used to, we’ve now won many of them over with our focus on consistently good fresh food, great coffee and friendly service. Word of mouth has helped our cafe grow and many of Kenny’s customers from other cafes have followed him to us. In January, I left the front of house to have our baby and our wonderful staff have been welcoming you to our café ever since.
We’ve been lucky to have the support of the Freo community in our endeavour. We love the range of people who come to Little Hawk Freo. On any given day you’ll be sipping coffee among teachers, tradespeople, artists and even the local motorcycle club, who are loyal Little Hawk Freo customers.
As we enter the end of our first year, we’re delighted to have made it this far! Our little business continues to grow and our staff have become part of our family. We’ve started to host regular live music and plan to have food and music nights in spring. We always welcome expressions of interest from local musicians.
On August the 4th, we’ll be celebrating our first birthday (watch this space) and we’ll be hosting a fiesta! We’re looking forward to our second year!
Little Hawk Freo
1/14 Strang St, Beaconsfield
Open: Monday to Friday, 6.30 am to 3.00 pm; Saturday 8.00 am to 12.00 pm