Things are back to normal for one of the businesses hardest hit by the closure of the Manawatu Gorge.
The Bridge Cafe in Ballance reopened yesterday with owner Rebecca Algie calling the day a success.
"It's been great," she said. "A lot of locals have come in for coffee and for lunch, some brought flowers."
Bridge Cafe stands a few hundred metres from State Highway 3 at the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge. Reliant on passing motorists for much of its trade, the cafe saw a sharp downturn in customers when the gorge road was shut in August last year by the first in a series of slips.
In September last year Miss Algie cut the cafe's hours and in January she decided to close the business until the gorge reopened to traffic.
She said the closure had been frustrating, although it had given her time to reflect on her business and how it operated. "It feels like a fresh start, more than anything."
With a new team of staff on board, the week leading up to the reopening had been busy, but yesterday had gone well.
Many of her regulars returned, and "quite a few people popped in and hadn't realised we'd been closed", she said.
Among the regulars who made the trip to Bridge Cafe yesterday was Ben Beech who said it was great to see the cafe open again.
The rural Pahiatua resident said that before the cafe closed he would travel to the cafe once a week, making the half-hour trip because of the friendly staff, quiet surroundings and the quality of the coffee and food.
Miss Algie's friend Ashlea Carter runs art and giftware store A Little Birdy Told Me next door to the cafe and also reopened yesterday. "It's such a relief," she said. "It's been a long wait."
She had relocated to a shop in Woodville while the cafe was closed, but said that was only ever a temporary step. "I love it out here, it's such a cool place to be. I was always going to come back."
New Zealand Transport Agency Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said he was pleased to hear that since the gorge reopened to two lanes, more motorists were passing through Woodville and supporting the local businesses. He was "particularly chuffed" to hear the Bridge Cafe had reopened.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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