OCEAN Grove’s much-loved Captain Chook is becoming a free-range retiree.
John Bowman, owner of the Piping Hot Chicken Shop, has decided to sell up and hand the keys to the bain-marie over to his successor, Ben Chudoschnik.
John and his wife Marjie are retiring after twenty years of hard work in making the Chicken Shop into the Ocean Grove institution it is today.
John said the sale was a bittersweet moment for him.
“Every summer I get tired and grumpy and want to put it on the market, but this year I did it,” he said.
Ben said he jumped at the chance to own a small slice of Ocean Grove history.
“John’s been here 20 years and the next bugger will be here another 20 so I thought I better get in quick,” he said.
“If we can fill the shoes half as well as John has, he’s created a bit of an institution here.”
Locals need not fear as the Chicken Shop is staying within the family. Ben and his wife Mikaela met while working behind the counter for more than six years in the late 1990s. The couple still live in Ocean Grove and are expecting their first child in July.
Ben said they were planning on keeping the shop just as locals know it and would eventually make some of their own additions including opening for dinner.
“People don’t have to worry, the music nights are staying, the chips and gravy are staying and we’ll just add a few extra touches ourselves during the next couple of months,” he said.
John and Marjie wanted to thank their customers for their support before the handing over of the keys on May 16.
“We want to thank people for their patronage over the years and their support, all the customers have given us great support and so have the holiday makers,” he said.
John said he was especially proud of all the young, local music acts that he has given a stage to over the last five years.
“When I leave here, I will leave with a post-musical glow,” he said. He will take time now to spend with his grandchildren and continue his commitment to local groups like the Ocean Grove Arts Network and the Bellarine Greens. Don’t worry though, he will still be rocking out at the Chicken Shop’s music gigs, only this time from the other side of the counter. “The original Captain Chook will still be floating around the music nights,” he said.