One man’s mission to revitalise Aranda shops

Lachlan Roberts 20 March 2021 15
Chris Dennis

Chris Dennis has single-handedly revitalised the abandoned Aranda shops. Photos: Region Media.

When Chris Dennis first decided to open his cafe Two Before Ten at the derelict Aranda shops in 2014, he knew it was a gamble.

Now nearly five years on since the cafe served its first coffee, the Bandjalong Crescent site that was once abandoned has sprung back to life, resembling the bustling community hub it was formerly known for.

The site was designed by Dutch architect Dirk Bolt in 1968, hosting a variety of businesses for several decades. However, the 2000s held quieter times before Chris Dennis took on the site’s master lease in an attempt to try and bring life back to its beautiful grounds.

“It was definitely a gamble and I naively grossly underestimated the amount of work,” Dennis said, laughing.

“It was a ghost town and it had been that way for a decade. There were tumbleweeds and syringes in the carpark.

“It was not a pleasant place at all. I think it was voted the second ugliest building in Canberra.

“It used to be the classic Canberra local shopping centre but as Jamison shopping plaza expanded, there wasn’t a demand for it and around 20 years ago, the businesses all slowed down.”

Dennis: armed with determination and a good cup of coffee.

Despite the magnitude of the job that lay before him, Dennis knew the power of good coffee and a destination cafe.

“I live in Yass and I used to drive all the way to Braddon to have brunch and decent coffee because there was nothing between Yass and Braddon,” he shared.

“I realised there had to be a demand. If I was driving that far, people living in Page and Holt would be doing exactly the same thing. By putting our destination cafe and roastery in there, we were able to attract people to come to Aranda.

“The support we have got has far exceeded what I thought we would get. The locals have been ridiculously supportive and the greater Belconnen region has really got behind us.”

The 50-year-old building now includes a boutique cafe Two Before Ten, a coffee roaster, Bolt Bar, a yoga studio and a boutique store supporting Australian designers.

The extremely worn-out carpark, however, still remains and is next on Dennis’s master plan.

Two Before Ten has revitalised the Aranda shops.

“We have been at the shops now for five years and it has been a slow process to rebuild everything,” Dennis said.

“We now want to fix the carpark and also provide a handicapped toilet. There is no ambulant access to the bathrooms, and people have to go down the driveway, along the footpath and through fire doors just to get to the toilet if they can’t get downstairs.

“They are incredibly costly and to fix the carpark, it will cost $60,000 which is cash we don’t have floating around. We started the GoFundMe page because the community has been very supportive since day one through their patronage.

“We have put the funds up ourselves to get it repaired – but we are only halfway so are reaching out to our beautiful community to come together with us to help finish it off.”

The GoFundMe page can be found here.

Rebuilding the carpark has proved to be a costly exercise.

What's Your Opinion?

Please login to post your comments, or connect with
15 Responses to One man’s mission to revitalise Aranda shops
A Nonny Mouse A Nonny Mouse 5:28 pm 08 Aug 19

Spot three plug-in cars in the carpark photo.

Alexandra Freeman Alexandra Freeman 8:14 am 06 Aug 19

This is awesome, well done!

Anka Savasci Anka Savasci 9:43 pm 03 Aug 19

Why a Go Fund Me? Aren’t basics like disabled toilet access a landlord responsibility? This shouldn’t be something that locals fundraise for.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 9:59 am 04 Aug 19

    Not all shops have public toilets. I think when they do, they are put in by the government.

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 7:00 pm 03 Aug 19

"a boutique store supporting Australian designers" Has anyone been to that, and what did they think about what was on offer?

Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 3:44 pm 03 Aug 19

Some of the money the ACT government gouges from landlords as land tax should be used for projects like this !!!

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 9:37 am 03 Aug 19

Someone I know is a neighbour and is thrilled at the busyness and the vibe that something exciting is happening.

Julie Dyson Julie Dyson 8:14 am 03 Aug 19

Fantastic work Chris, you’ve changed this community forever!

Robin Joyce Robin Joyce 4:21 am 03 Aug 19

Lovely place for food and coffee. And great for our dogs... a mat is provided for them.

Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 1:14 am 03 Aug 19

I love 2 before 10 at Aranda - it is a lovely spot in a quaint retro building, it has the best coffee and food, an alfresco area in a kitchen garden and friendly service. Highly recommended and I hope they can get the funding to fix the car park and disabled toilet. They deserve help with this project. It’s the sort of thing governments both local and federal should be helping with to boost employment and community capacity

Kimberley Lloyd Kimberley Lloyd 9:49 pm 02 Aug 19

Aranda has shops?

    Nikolai Jermolajew Nikolai Jermolajew 4:12 pm 03 Aug 19

    it used to. Closed down 10 or 15 years ago. The building was basically abandoned for that time. Came back to life as a cafe and bar about 4 years ago.

Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 8:11 pm 02 Aug 19

I'll share this. I wish Scullin Shops would do a go fund me, needs some love too.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 3:20 pm 02 Aug 19

What a brilliant initiative it has been for Aranda. I see huge potential for someone to do something similar in Kambah, Wanniassa or Holder.

Government should be giving incentives to the suburban shops, not just funding for precincts in the city and town centres.

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Region Group Pty Ltd

Search across the site