Strong community the key to Lygon St future

Strong community the key to Lygon St future

Words by Matt Harvey

Simon Rahme’s family has run a business on Lygon St since the mid ‘80s. These days he runs Italian-inspired Mediterranean restaurant Copperwood as part of his business portfolio which includes St Charly, Dimattina, and Carmine’s bistro.

If you’ve enjoyed some Italian food on Lygon St you just may have Mr Rahme to thank.

Lygon St has a history that reaches far back into Melbourne’s past, the shared story of the community hub unites generations of Australians.

“I love being part of something with such a long history. It’s very satisfying building long term relationships with clients. We now have regular clients that were brought to the restaurant as children now bringing in their children,” he said.

Building a strong relationship with any local community can be difficult, particularly a community with a strong sense of self like Lygon St.

In the running of Copperwood Simon Rahme is trying to be innovative while trying to respect the history of the street.

“We don’t consider ourselves a strictly Italian restaurant but more of a Mediterranean restaurant with strong Italian influences,” he said.

“We have become known for our variety of tapas dishes and our generous servings of pasta. Our chicken parmigiana, however, is what lots of our regular younger clients come for.”

Lygon St is one of the most popular food strips in Melbourne. During pre-COVID times, the street would be full of a mix of tourists, and families enjoying a lunch or dinner.

Simon Rahme is keen to maintain his family’s position as part of the community, forming bonding experiences with locals who have become mainstays in his restaurant.

“Our aim has always been to build and maintain a local clientele. The majority of our customers visit us at least once a week and that’s how we like it,” he said.

“Overseas or interstate regulars are the cherry on top.”

The future of the street has weighed heavily on the business owners and staff who work on Lygon St, and COVID numbers and restrictions yo-yo, causing a state of instability for businesses that are reliant on foot traffic and the experience of a night out.

Community connections are key to the survival of businesses like Copperwood and previously thriving cultural hubs like Lygon St.

“We don’t like to rely on tourism as this can be easily affected as we saw during COVID,” Mr Rahme said.

“Lygon St is strong and will always come back.” •

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