MAKER STORIES: CIRCLING THE WAGONS PART 1
Welcome to Thornbury
It may have the look and feel of a pop-up festival, but Welcome to Thornbury is a bar, licensed for over 700 people. It is also Melbourne’s largest – and only permanent – food truck park. More importantly, Welcome to Thornbury is a community. The design of the venue means people feel comfortable gathering as they would in a public precinct or a park, it attracts passers-by, as well as those deliberately looking for a bar or something to eat. “What we’re proudest of as a business is Welcome to Thornbury evolving to be a great community destination for people,” says CEO Dehne Bingham, acknowledging that the venue brought in a different demographic than he and his partners originally expected. “Right from when we opened, we seemed to attract a lot of young families, pets and local groups from the area.” Thursday night’s ‘Real Dogs of Darebin’ is one way of connecting with the neighbourhood. A local dog trainer has set up his ‘Good Dog’ residency, and the bar runs raffles and giveaways, to raise money for animal welfare. The locals love it. “I’m sure some people tell their partners that they’re off for a 10-kilometre walk with the dog, and they’ve actually come 300 metres down the road to sit in the beer garden and have a beer,” laughs Scott Assender business partner and the man in charge of running Welcome to Thornbury.
The site is large enough that the team can offer space to artists for no cost. Once a month, local creators set up stalls to sell their wares in a boho market. The team is also looking at providing low-cost offices for start-ups, to help entrepreneurs get a bit of a leg-up. “We feel like we’ve become a community space rather than a business in the area, which is a really cool feeling,” Bingham says.