Gerards tenants told to leave the building

By Emma Cornford

The Gerards Cafeteria and Takeaway has been a Grafton institution for 45 years.

But come June 4, it will be gone.

Store owner Vorna Cooper, along with owners of the other shops on the Fitzroy Street side of the centre, was handed a letter on Monday saying she had to vacate the premises in just over a month. No explanation was offered.

"I've been in this building for 27 years and I've owned this shop for 23-and-a-half years," she said.

"Had they given us three months it may not have been so bad but to tell us a month ... well, it's devastating."

Although Mrs Cooper was trying to be positive about the prospect of walking away from her business with virtually nothing but the money she would make from selling equipment, she said it was her customers and employees she felt sorry for.

One lady, she said, had been going to the cafe for 35 years and would order a cup of coffee and a homemade pikelet every morning without fail.

"I've got so many valued customers who have been coming here longer than even I've been here. They keep on saying 'you can't go ? we need you' but I can't stay. I just want to apologise to our customers who are so loyal."

Grafton Barber Shop owner Glenn Iredale said he was 'one of the lucky ones' because he only needed a small store to relocate.

"I've only been here 12 months so giving me a letter to say to be out in a month was fine but for those who have been here for many years, to just give them a letter, I thought that was just coldblooded."

Both owners agree, however, that the centre was in desperate need of a facelift.

"It's progress and that has to happen," Mrs Cooper said.

"It's been an eyesore but it would be nice if they could include us in the new building rather than just putting us out on the street."

Color Perfect owner Keith Brodie said he could also see the positives of the redevelopment.

"I've got to admit a month was a bit of a shock, but I've slept on it and found somewhere else to move, so now I can see the positive side of it," he said.

"Obviously they'll have to get a big tenant because it's a big area here and that will mean a lot of employees which will be good for the town.

"I'm not looking forward to moving but at least we'll be able to find all the biros which have fallen behind the counter all of these years."

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