Owner of Kingsville’s Willow Wine Café, Ellen grew up in Perth and did a Fine Art degree at Curtin University. She moved to Melbourne to follow her artistic dreams and discovered a passion for hospitality (and that it was very hard to make any money from art). She has now worked in Melbourne for more than 20 years, with nearly 9 years in the west.
“I had just moved back from Shanghai and didn’t want to go back to my old haunts (Brunswick, Carlton area) and tried to live in St Kilda – which I hated. For the next move I explored Yarraville and fell in love with the West.”
Ellen cut her teeth at the Gin Palace, then Public House in Richmond, then managed the Glamour Bar in Shanghai for 3 years. She returned and managed Collins Quarter in the CBD before a stint at Seddon Wine Store followed by the management of the Plough Hotel.
“This is my first business on my own. Willow is a combination of all the parts that resonated with me of all the places I’ve worked. I love cafes but I love wine too and I wanted to build a locals’ place that anyone could sit in for hours or just escape for a few minutes. An oasis from our busy lives.
Ellen has worked hard to make sure they do everything as ethically as possible from paying award wages and penalty rates to using free range eggs and local produce, reducing waste and a water saving toilet.
“The hospitality scene has exploded – walking down Barkly St in Footscray you can stop in at about 20 bars now. Seddon has bloomed with some amazing cafes and restaurants. More and more people moving here every day, starting families and businesses. Just seems to keep booming.”
What connects Ellen to the west?
“Now my parents live in Kingsville, my sister lives in West Footscray and my daughter goes to Yarraville West Primary School. I’ve really got to know the locals and am feeling like part of the community. I love the closeness to the city that Yarraville offers whilst still maintaining a small town feel.
For the small joys, Ellen loves going into Footscray to grab a bahn mi, The Sun Theatre and the Sun bookshop, and the dog parks at Yarraville Gardens and Cruikshank park – great places to get outdoors.
“I also love dining at Copperpot and drinking at Barkly and Johnson and I will always be a regular at the Plough and Seddon Wine Store. Cornershop saved me from insanity when I had my baby – I went there literally every day and it holds a special place in my heart. Dumbo & Rudimentary in Footscray are awesome and I love the food at Yim Yam. So many places – why leave the West?
Willow Wine Cafe, 126 Williamstown Rd Kingsville.
Open 8am-7pm daily (except Mondays).