The owners of a new cafe in Fairy Meadow have described the lockdown that derailed their grand opening as a "blessing in disguise".
After signing the contract to buy Reay's Place in Vereker Street in January, the close-knit Gunes family spent the next few months fine-tuning plans for their unique addition to the Illawarra cafe scene.
Steve Gunes, his nursing student daughter Sheniz, and wife Linda and son Kayahan - both police officers - designed a sitdown menu, transformed the rustic space into a vibrant Mediterranean-inspired shop and cafe, and hired and trained up staff.
They also renamed the cafe Evil Eye - which fittingly refers to an ancient symbol said to ward off curses and bad energy.
By March, as they prepared to throw open the doors, restaurants were suddenly forbidden from serving eat-in meals as coronavirus restrictions came into effect.
It made us realise that people wanted different food, not food that you can find at every cafe.
And while the switch to takeaway wasn't part of the plan, the business has come out the other side with a better understanding of its customers' appetites.
"This has been a blessing for us in disguise because it's given us time to find our feet to see what people like," Steve said.
"We had pies and gozleme when we first opened and none of the pies sold.
"We thought we'd cater for everyone but we threw all the pies and sausage rolls in the bin."
"It made us realise that people wanted different food, not food that you can find at every cafe," Sheniz added.
"I don't think many cafes have gozleme and that's our most popular item."
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