Winter 2006

By Adrianne Yzerman
Little did Sarah Hanna know what the future held in store for her when she graduated from catering college in the United Kingdom at the tender age of sixteen. Neither did I until those driver reviver campaigns did their job and I stopped at the Highway Galleria Café on Albany Highway in Williams.
If the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the fresh bouquets of daffodils aren’t enough to tempt you into this little oasis then the old world charm oozing out of the renovated colonial furniture definitely will. First established in 1942 as a café and shop, the building not only clings to the heritage tradition that Sarah obviously has a huge passion for, but it also expertly houses an amalgam of contemporary art. Sarah’s passion does not stop there. With a menu that matches any of Perth’s finest establishments, Sarah’s on the job training in French hotels has not compromised mediocrity in Williams.
Sarah’s zest for her business was founded on the rocky and tumultuous road to Williams. With an Australian mother Sarah found it easy to whisk her way down under, eventually finding herself in Yanchep with a husband and two children followed by a stint managing the restaurant at a corporately run farm stay near Williams. The impetus for the move was a combination of chasing the country life and coming to terms with the grief experienced after losing their son to SIDS.
Sarah was adamant in her desire to retain the country life without having to surrender her professional life.
“We needed to stay in Williams as we had fallen in love with it. The people here help you out at the drop of a hat with no questions asked and we know that our children will be relatively safe,” said Sarah.
Opportunity struck when the proprietors of the Highway Galleria & Café, John and Marijke Tromp, mentioned how the café side of the business was detracting them away from their true passions of art and furniture restoration. “Knowing my history as a chef, the Tromps asked me if I was interested in taking over the café,” Sarah added.
It didn’t take Sarah long to decide that this was what she was meant to do. However, the decision was not without its difficulties. “The banks just weren’t interested in financing us as we had nothing to secure a loan due to us only just completing the purchase of our home.”
It was at this stage that Sarah negotiated a short term lease arrangement with the Tromps. The arrangement will enable her to have a financial history to support her application in the future.
‘’We have been doing really well, but we have been very lucky with John and Marijke already putting in the hard yards with their long term ownership of the gallery and café,’’ said Sarah.
Regardless the venture has been a huge learning curve as Sarah has discovered how seasonal the business can be. She is learning to value add during the quiet times by obtaining more dinner bookings.
“Our first real eye opener was the first public holiday we were in business. We had never been in Williams on a public holiday and we were totally unprepared for the amount of patronage we received,” said Sarah. “Looking back it was funny as the dishes were piling up and people waiting to be seated. Next time we will be employing casual labour.”
Sarah’s recipe for success is to be professional at all times, be yourself and smile a lot.