THE HARD REALITY OF OPENING YOUR OWN CAFÉ + WHERE TO GET SUPPLIES
It's the last day of the month, which means we sadly have to say bye to Sophie. We found reading about her journey so inspiring. We can only imagine how hard quitting your job must have been, only to dive into the unknown. We are extremely happy it worked out the way she imagined it would, and we certainly hope her story would help you give that little nudge you need to stop doing something that isn't for you. To work on your own dreams! Keep reading to find out more about the tough beginning she had and to find out where she sources her furniture, logo and so on! Enjoy!
Because I was still working full time right up until the opening of the café I had to do pretty much all of the preparation and shopping online at night.
I was really lucky that the space had been previously used as a café that hadn’t been open for long, so I was given the coffee machine and basic cooking appliances with the space. As for all of the crockery & furniture, I spent hours & hours scouring eBay & Etsy, where I found most of the vintage pieces the café is filled with - from the original French Art Deco glass coolie lamp shades, to the pastel coloured Melmac plates & bowls and the drinking straws and plastic cutlery. As you can probably tell by now, I get pretty obsessive about details and colour coordination! Fortunately a lot of the retro / diner style pieces that I wanted weren’t too expensive. However, I struggled to find much Melmac in the UK so my best friend in New York had to bring a lot over with her in her suitcase for me the week we opened!
I’ve accumulated a lot more bits & pieces since opening the café, including the neon lights which are my latest obsession! I found some really cute ones on eBay as well as a couple that a friend of mine found on a children’s website : https://www.alittlelovelycompany.nl .I’ve always had a bit of a thing for childrenswear stores, as you can always find such cute pastel colours and loads of heart & cloud shaped random objects! One of my favourites is Bon Ton in Paris: https://www.bonton.fr/en_2/.
One of the things I found hardest to source was furniture & signage. In the end I had to import vintage Mallet Stevens chairs from Germany, which I had stripped and powder coated, so that they would match the exact blue of my logo. The tables I had custom made by a local carpenter, which took a lot longer than anticipated and was quite stressful, but I was adamant that I wanted them to be Formica topped, just like in a retro diner (of my grandma’s front room!) and also in the colours of my logo.
I had my signage for the exterior of the store made by an excellent company named Goodwin & Goodwin who are based in Alexandra Palace, where I grew up. I went to meet with them to discuss my ideas and options for making them a reality. It was really important to me that the signage fit in perfectly with the exterior of The Strand Building. It wasn’t cheap, but they put together exactly what I had in mind first time and I couldn’t be happier with it!
I don’t think I’ll ever stop updating the interiors and adding or changing things in the space. It’s like a never ending project, which I love to have as I’m one of those people that struggles to sit still!
WORK AND LIFE BALANCE
People often ask me about my work / life balance. Which is something I’ve always struggled with, but I feel has definitely improved since I opened the café, as the opening hours are much friendlier than my previous job was! Also, when you’re working for yourself you can often be working but it doesn’t always feel like it… I can fit things in really late at night (I tend to do a lot of the food shopping online after midnight) and my friends often join in with the baking and event planning, so it becomes more of a social activity than work. It is a lot of hard work having the café but overall I feel like it’s given me a much nicer and happier quality of life, which was my main aim from the beginning, so I’m super happy that it’s worked out!