The Shed and Chew Chew Bistro build on the Palmwoods foodies experience

Great for kids

Richard Bruinsma

The restoration of an old railway shed that is now home to a character laden coffee shop and bistro, has helped continue the evolution of Palmwoods as a place for foodies with all tastes.

The Shed retail store and its partner, Chew Chew Bistro, have settled in perfectly in the township, after its rustic 100-year-old home was painstakingly restored over a seven-year period.

Businessman Geoff Ryan says it’s a perfect venue for his business, which offers seasonal menu items with a twist, as well as a unique vintage and collectables retail space.

People come great distances to shop here, but the difference in coming to The Shed and Chew Chew Bistro is that you can come along and have a nice meal and then meander for 20 or 30 minutes amongst all the goodies in the homewares and gift store,” Mr Ryan said.

There is no business like it within all of Queensland and half of New South Wales.
The eatery has joined with other big local names including the retro-inspired Ricks Garage, the beautifully restored Palmwoods Hotel, Asian-fusion inspired Piggyback restaurant, the Cafe de Orient, and Stonebridge Gardens café and bar, set amongst lush botanic gardens.

The transformation of Palmwoods has happened almost by accident, but it has given the small township a point of different on the Sunshine Coast tourism map.
“Palmwoods used to be somewhere you drove through to go to the hinterland, but now Palmwoods is a destination,” Geoff explained.

Palmwoods itself now is a bit of a foodie’s destination due to the likes of us, with our modern Australian and international cuisine, you’ve got lovely Asian up the road here in Little Main Street, you’ve got Piggyback, you’ve got Rick’s Garage, you’ve got the pub with its big menu, so it’s become a bit of a foodie’s destination.

But our business has been a bit of a destination business for many years because of the fact that, one, this is the only business like it between Bowral and Cape York.

Our menu is ever-changing, seasonal, and we have a fabulous team of chefs, who are very creative – if we do something Italian, it’s a modern twist on Italian, we do a bit of international cuisine but a lot of modern Australian, continental.

I think it’s a creative menu, something for everyone whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, a meat-lover, fish-lover, chicken-lover, or if you love your seafood, we’ve got some fabulous things on the menu for that, and again, it’s seasonal – if it’s winter it’s a hot one, if it’s summer it’s a cool one.

There is no other outlet that is like us – we’re a well-known licenced bistro but it’s also a well-known business to come and buy something unique, interesting, unusual, one-of-a-kind, quirky, high-end jewellery, high-end watches.

We often deal in – and can’t get enough of – ladies’ name brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada; we deal in that regularly, we’re licenced resellers and authenticators, so we are a destination business.

I would say, in our retail sector, every day something new comes in, a truck arrives with new goodies” – Dianna is a licenced interior designer, so she has access to agencies that only deal with designers and decorators, so what we stock here you won’t find in David Jones, Myer, Freedom, etc, etc, so our visitors get something a little bit more unique.

Our retail space is ever-changing, along with the menu in the bistro, so it makes it a place people can come to every couple of weeks – we have people come every day and we have people come once a month and sometimes we’ll see people who come once every couple of months, because they live further away, and we have regulars from as far as Brisbane who are down here once a week.

The attraction is enhanced by the rustic character of the restored railway shed.

You look at the outside of the building, and, when you walk in, you see exactly what you thought it would look like,” Geoff explained.

People love the old ladders hanging up, they love the decorating my wife Dianna has done in here, the placement of our counters and furniture and things like that.

Even the look of the bar – not perfect, rustic thick timber, old rusty used tin used as features for some of the cladding – and people are happy. They walk in and their eyes go everywhere, they look up, they look down, they look everywhere.

The business was called ‘The Shed’, and now we’re in a shed – previously we were in an industrial building, so it’s perfectly suited to us.

Of course, like anything, we’ve built what we’ve bult and now we need to tweak a few things; we’ve outgrown the kitchen, customer base-wise they want more from us and with the kitchen size the way it is we can’t give them more, so we’re expanding early this year, to extend the kitchen, extend the bar, and create a new coffee and cake zone as well.

The aging building faced an unknown future after the death in 2014 of former owner Peter Crosby, whose rural supply business was a well-known tenant of the shed through the 2000s.

It was initially hoped the shed could be repaired by and utilised for the community, but the massive scale of the required restoration work and convoluted land leases made that plan problematic.

I own the buildings but everything under the buildings is land on a long-term lease to Queensland Rail, but the ultimate owners are the Department of Transport and Main Roads – so they lease it to Queensland Rail and Queensland Rail leases it to me,” Ms Stokes explained.

The sheds were in a very poor state, and there was a clause in the lease said that once the lease was terminated or expired, the buildings had to be removed from the site.

We decided to take on the restoration as a project – it was either that or the building would have fallen apart and the lease would have expired and there would have been no trace of the building anymore.

Geoff was the one who came past and saw the building and fell in love with it and decided it was what he wanted for his business.

It has been amazing… What they have done in there now, it was something that was in the back of my mind as being always the ultimate way of using this building, and it’s all just come together so well.

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