‘Horrible’: Disbelief at Sydney cafe’s $50k makeover

‘Horrible’: Disbelief at Sydney cafe’s $50k makeover
  • PublishedJanuary 30, 2024

A controversial new $50,000 paint job on a health food cafe has split public opinion as it aims to bring some Melbourne grunge to the western Sydney suburb of Penrith.

Owner of The Shack Cafe Stephen Ajami told news.com.au he commissioned an artist to coat the building – inside and out – in street art.

He said it was all part of a vision to prove Penrith’s spot as an up-and-coming city by recreating the vibes from Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane after a recent visit.

However, the move has not gone down well with some.

“Looks like an abandoned skatepark,” said one commenter who took to Facebook to express how “unappealing” he found the new facade.

Another commented that she wanted to like the new street-inspired look but this was “too much”.

“Graffiti if done correctly can look amazing,” she said.

“What a horrible looking venue,” said one succinct commentator. Another said the cafe looked like a “slum”.

The cafe is set to open on Saturday.

Here’s what it used to look like in 2017. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Here’s what it used to look like in 2017. Picture: Jeremy Piper

“It’s handy to have on our street but it’s sad the shop looks like a slum, if they were going for a hip Melbourne look they failed,” she said.

Another commenter was already looking for a menu for the revamped cafe.

“We can[‘t] wait to come back, love the street art vibes,” she said.

Mr Ajami sold the Penrith location of The Shack after scaling down his 13 locations but the new owners filled it with junk food, which he says is “all Penrith has”.

After this change, the new owners went “bust” and Mr Ajami took the venue back to its health food roots.

Mr Ajami said he was filling a niche in the market left by a dearth of healthy food options.

The cafe caters to a range of eating plans including vegan, paleo and keto with no artificial sugars and no fried food.

“I’ve got a healthy product and it’s good for the community,” Mr Ajami said.

Mr Ajami has been working in hospitality for two decades and said he always tries to set the trends in the industry.

The Shack owner Steve Ajami.

The Shack owner Steve Ajami.

The makeover has caused a stir online.

The makeover has caused a stir online.

“I’ve driven around Penrith and seen a lot of funky places starting to pop up,” he said.

“I wanted a Hosier Lane look in there and he’s [the artist has] done that.”

Mr Ajami said the revamp had garnered attention and it was not all negative.

“Everyone is coming to look at it,” he said. “Some people not liking it, some people liking it.

“It’s what is inside that is going to matter the most.” Mr Ajami said.

Mr Ajami flew Melbourne-based street artist Billie Jean up for the makeover. It took four weeks of 12-14 hour days to complete.

“I think it’s a pretty risky move to put it in the middle of Penrith,” Mr Jean told theDaily Telegraph.

“But it’s definitely turning heads and that was the main purpose.”

Mr Ajami said he was in talks with the council due to the mural being a mixture of signage and graffiti, with addresses and logos evident in the artwork.

“If they make me take off a few things I will,” Mr Ajami told news.com.au.

There are five The Shack locations across NSW, with the newly revamped Penrith venue reopening on Saturday.


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