28 March 2024

Yass cafe and gallery Tootsie takes out an international award - as 'a work of art'

| Sally Hopman
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Woman waving behding glass trophy

Cayla Pothan with the trophy her gallery and cafe, Tootsie, in Yass, won for Best Unique Casual Dining Venue in NSW. Photo: Lauren Fitzsimmons.

Cayla Pothan has always enjoyed marching to a different beat. When she opened Tootsie cafe and gallery in Yass almost nine years ago, she wanted it to be different, to offer something a little unusual to locals and visitors passing through.

Since the day it opened in the art-nouveau-style former garage at the top of the town’s main street, that’s exactly what happened. It’s a cafe but it’s also an art gallery, it’s a meeting place for people of all ages as it is a studio for new, emerging and established artists.

For Cayla, who is also the Deputy Mayor of Yass, the dream of providing something a little different, especially in an historic, traditional country town like Yass, has paid off – in spades.

This week Tootsie was awarded a trophy as Best Unique Dining Venue in NSW from the British company, LUXLife.

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Cayla said she was told the cafe was nominated for the award, but wasn’t told by whom. But she has a fair idea.

“I have a good friend in London, an architect, who I’ve known for a long time,” Cayla said. “He was really great when we started this place, offering advice.

“I remember him saying how important it was to keep it authentic,” she said. “He specialised in art deco, so he knew what he was talking about.”

Cayla said she was “shocked” to hear that Tootsie had won. “They told us in January but we couldn’t say anything until we had the trophy.”

It has since arrived and now takes pride of place in an ever-expanding trophy cabinet in the cafe. Tootsie also won an award last year for Most Vibrant Cafe in the Southern Highlands and Cayla has also been recognised as an author.

Cafe called Tootsie at Yass

Tootsie gallery and cafe in Yass has just won a major international award for “unique” casual dining. Photo: Tootsie Facebook.

Cayla believes social media played a key role in the cafe’s recognition, both in Australia and internationally.

“It’s something I really make an effort with,” she said. “It clearly pays to keep your social media up to date – and they don’t give out awards if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else.

“As a child, I was always different. I’ve always embraced being different, doing different things. With this gallery, I broke the rules, so to get an award is mind-blowing; there’s a real sense of pride and excitement.

“Running your own business in a small town involves blood, sweat and tears and sometimes you win. So for me, it’s cool to still be standing.”

Announcing Tootsie’s win, LUXLife described the Yass cafe itself as “a work of art”.

“With a motto of Connect Inspire Grow, Tootsie goes beyond being a cafe and safe space,” it said. “It also offers personal programs to grow through creativity, knowledge and understanding oneself. As part of her leadership skillset, Cayla fosters an environment where people are safe to be themselves and show their true colours.”

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