Flavour Cafe in ashes

Hundreds of Pietermaritzburg residents on Thursday mourned the loss of one of their favourite haunts, the Flavour Cafe, which burned to the ground early on Thursday morning.

Based at the Dunrobin Nursery in Chase Valley, Flavour Cafe, had become a haven of sorts for many to escape “the hustle and bustle of the city”, after it was founded 12 years ago by owner Lee Hankey.

Hankey, who lives near the cafe, said yesterday that he was at home, asleep, when he was awoken by sirens.

“I heard the fire truck driving up and down the road and thought I had better look at my phone. That is when I realised the Cafe was on fire.

“I jumped into my car and followed the fire trucks into the property and have been here since 2 am today [on Thursday],” he said.

Hankey said the Cafe, the kitchen and all the stalls and stands within the property had been gutted by the fire.

He said around 65 little shops had been destroyed in the fire. “I am completely shattered by this,” said Hankey. “It was 12 years of hard work. This was like my baby.

“I am really relieved that no one was injured during the fire and that it happened at night and not during the day when the Cafe was full of customers.”

Regulars of the Cafe rushed to their former favourite spot as soon as they heard the news to support Hankey.

One regular, Vivian Gordon, entered the property and immediately wrapped Hankey in a hug in a show of support.

Gordon said she had booked out the Cafe in May this year for her 60th birthday, which would have been held there on Sunday.

Gordon said it was one of her favourite spots in the city and that if she could not have her birthday party at the Cafe, she would rather not have a party at all.

“I could just live here, that is how much I love the place,” said Gordon.

Gordon’s friend, and also a regular at the Cafe, Resha Maharaj, said she would miss both the Cafe and the little shops.

“It was the place that you could go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

“I loved the food and all the antiques they sold. Looking back now, I should have bought more antiques from the shops,” said Maharaj.

Glynis Brown, who runs the nursery at the Cafe, said that the Msunduzi fire department had been at the property for most of the day, “combing the scene and going through everything” but that the cause of the fire had not yet been pinpointed.

City residents took to The Witness Facebook page to mourn the loss of the cafe.

Olaf Masson posted: “So sad. I loved going there. Always had great service and our little dog was always welcomed. There are so few places where our pets are made to feel like family.”

Fundi Mchunu posted: “Oh no. I love their baked goodies and milkshakes. Hope they get back on their feet.”