‘I opened this café where and when I did, because I wanted to build something that combined my passion for the hospitality industry with my passion for people – particularly my neighbours in St Paul’s,’
As Josh has tackled the hurdles of the business’ first year, he has found that flexibility has been key – flexibility and a willingness to put things on hold. A broken waffle iron in November definitely impacted an already quiet winter season, but he tells me he has a good feeling about clawing back the lost ground in February, with my visit on the 3rd coinciding with a day of record sales for the year. Overall he has found it easier to just ‘roll with it’ rather than cling to set milestones – he aimed to green up the café with a local business’ plant installations, but now that will have to wait. ‘We’re still a way off from achieving the dream scenario,’ he comments, ‘but we’ve definitely started as we mean to go on!’
One concrete aim was to sustain the community in a very material way, and this is something that has been close to Josh’s heart throughout. Take a glance around the café and you will see many products for sale outside the typical coffee-and-a-cake fare. Josh has made a point of stocking local startups as a chance for them to find their feet. Although he obviously has more of a focus on catering and hospitality startups, he explains, if you have a viable idea he’s willing to lend an ear – and possibly a platform – as long as you’re passionate.
Products he’s showcased this year include My Friend’s Chilli Oil, a Bristol-based producer of chilli oil who shares Josh’s locally-sourced ethos when it comes to ingredients. James Stuart responded to a shout-out on social media for startup food producers – Josh tried it once, and never looked back.
Also stocked is Nutcessity – a quintessentially Bristolian fellow called Mike whose nut butters give him his ‘mojo’ – and a St Werburghs-based pottery whose delightfully hand-sized cups are fabulous to sip one of Josh’s coffees out of.
This support system extends to financing as well. Instead of going for expansion, his aim is cover costs and support himself – and funnel any further profit back in to the community, giving other independent business owners a hand. As I mentioned before, it’s hard not to notice the numerous empty shop units in the area. Josh hopes to change that.
From an ecological point of view, sustainability is not so straightforward. Since it’s very rare for a startup independent business to own a premises outright – Josh is no exception – there is very little agency over the eco-friendly running of the building. Although he has his eye on purchasing a new premises to move to, that is still a few years in the future. His main issues now, he says, are utilities and waste disposal. ‘I pay my electricity by card through a meter!’ he chuckles, ‘How old-school is that?’
Nor does he have separate bins for compostable waste – although all of his takeaway cups are; his parents take some for the garden, but there’s still a lot that gets consigned to the bin. ‘If anyone fancies taking them off my hands, they’re welcome to – I always feel sad just binning them.’
He has also recently switched to glass bottles only, sourcing all water from Frank Water Bristol, a Bristol-based charity that sources spring water from Devon, with all profits going to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in India and Nepal.
The light was beautiful enough yesterday to really highlight the beautiful arrangements made for the tables by the excellent Mrs B, using some really beautiful flowers from the lovely Fiona @cotswoldcountryflowers ???? (Might get a better shot of the flower detail at some point, but this angle was just too good not to capture ?) . #milkteeth #celebratesmallness #shadows #nicelight #flowers #tiles #florist #bristol #portlandsquare #stpauls
Overall he feels he has encountered more roadblocks than anticipated, despite which he maintains an optimistic outlook.
‘I have no chance to chase stuff up!’ But he says this with a fond smile.
A month away from our 1st birthday, I’m starting to reminisce about the process that led up to opening this little spot here in St Paul’s. Boy, there was a lot of hard graft went into it! And it’s been a year of hard graft too ?? If anyone tells you it’s an easy life running a coffee shop, they probably haven’t done it. Saying that, this has been one of the best years of my life, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so alive ?? Can’t wait to celebrate going past the year mark, and to see what joys Year 2 brings with it! ?? #memorylane #mushymushy #thebestthingsinlifetakehardwork #andmanyothersimilarcliches