Beech, Hampshire, 27 November 2021. Coffee and cake on Fridays is now an established social occasion for the people in the Hampshire village of Beech. Our Coffee & Cake shop in the Village Hall has opened 10 times so far, and has served a total of 466 drinks and 505 slices of cake! The shop is open every Friday from 10am until 4pm, and about 50 people come in on most Fridays.
People in the village are using the coffee shop as a place to meet family and friends, or as an opportunity to drop in and chat with whoever happens to be there at the time. “I enjoy the atmosphere, conversations and meeting new people,” says Sarah Neish, who organises the rota of cake creators and coffee grinders and is often found behind the counter on Fridays.
“We started to plan our coffee shop during lockdown, because we anticipated that people would be hungry – both for cake and for opportunities to socialise,” says Kim Eakers, who led the project on behalf of the Village Hall management committee. “I am delighted that people of all ages are enjoying the coffee shop so much. I am especially pleased to see people who find it difficult to take part in our evening social activities, including those with young children.”
In order to attract people to the shop, quality coffee was essential, so the Hall decided to purchase our coffee, along with branded cups, from Moonroast, an artisan coffee roastery based in the nearby Candover Valley. Moonroast have provided valuable support and guidance, including running a coffee appreciation workshop for the Beech team.
The coffee shop is run by a team of 36 volunteers, who take it in turns to bake cakes and serve in the shop. Everybody who serves in the shop has been trained in food safety and in how to operate our technology, including the SFBB+ food safety compliance app and our iZettle point of sale system.
A significant investment of money and time was required to buy the necessary equipment and supplies, and to refit the Hall’s lounge bar to accommodate its change in use for Fridays. As well as the coffee machine, we needed to purchase tables, chairs, crockery, cake stands, aprons, coffee supplies, a music player and a sandwich board to promote the shop. We hired an electrician to install the necessary lighting and power points, but the plastering was done by a volunteer. Volunteers hand-made the shelving in donated local oak, and a local resident organised pottery glazing workshops where villagers decorated cups, saucers and plates, which were fired in her kiln and are now on display when not being used.
The Hall management committee also took this opportunity to introduce digital signage for the coffee shop, and for the entrance hall. The 65in monitor in the entrance hall replaces an untidy pinboard with a remotely controlled display providing up-to-date information about clubs, classes and social events in the Hall, as well as news and pictures from the village. When people hire the Hall for a wedding reception or party, they can take over this display and use it to show a welcome message or a play-list of family photographs. A smaller digital sign displays the coffee shop prices, or the bar prices when the area is in use as a bar.
Creating this shop was made possible by a capital grant of £3,300 from the East Hampshire District Council Supporting Communities Fund, and a £1,869 grant from the National Lottery Local Connections Fund, supplemented by over £2,000 in donations from generous villagers.
“I am delighted that the Beech Coffee and Cake shop is satisfying its objective to create a hub for informal social daytime interaction and support,” says Jane Freeman-Hunt, Chair of the Beech Village Hall & Recreation Ground charity. “This should lead to improved wellbeing in the community. We are all very grateful to EHDC, the National Lottery and our local community for making this happen.”
Beech is a village of about 600 people. With no shops, pubs or restaurants, the community only has two shared spaces for interaction and support – the village hall and the church. The Beech Village Hall charity runs an active social programme, which is mainly geared to evening events for adults at weekends. The coffee shop provides our local community with social opportunities during the day on weekdays, thus better addressing the needs of families with children and some older residents who are less willing to go out in the evening.