Jess McHugh is sad but resolute when we discuss her decision to close her beloved cafe Silvie’s on Iffley Road for good.
“It just got too much,” she concedes, “and after eight years I just burnt out. I started experiencing health issues and I needed to make some changes,” she explains.
‘after eight years I just burnt out. I started experiencing health issues and I needed to make some changes’
“Throw in the energy prices, rising costs and recruitment issues, at a time when I was trying to build up the business, and things were getting out of control.
“I just wasn’t willing to compromise my menu or my offering so I made the decision to close, and kill Silvie off,” she shrugs sadly.
“Closing silvie was a huge decision, and to be honest it crippled me for about six months, but I knew changes needed to be made”
Jess took over the family guest house back in 2016 and decided to convert the ground floor into a cafe.
“I grew up here. It was our family home as well as a guest house so when my parents decided to retire I couldn’t bear to let it go,” she explains.
An instant hit with the local who loved Jess’s cakes, pasties, brunches, lunches and sustainable, seasonal, local ethos, the business took off straight away.
‘I just wasn’t willing to compromise my menu or my offering so I made the decision to close’
But after Covid and lockdown, the pressure began building and soon became too much: “Closing was an absolutely huge decision, and to be honest it crippled me for about six months, but I knew changes needed to be made,” she sighs.
Jess still has lots of plans for the space itself however, including renting out more rooms in the guest house, relaunching her occasion cake-making business and utilising the space for weekly pop-up nights, starting with this Friday with Dayums Street Food Takeover.
Expect burgers, hot dogs, loaded fries and lots of other great stuff with tunes from Jay Selectah of Highgrade Reggae from 4pm-10pm.
Every cloud then? “It’s about making Silvie’s work for me rather than the other way around. I needed to take back control,” Jess says.
“So I’m going back to my roots which was making cakes, cinnamon buns, brownies and taking them to markets and venues around Oxford. I love baking, it’s my first joy. My grandparents were bakers so it runs in the family.”
“But we also want to continue to host events here; from workshops to pop ups, demos to brunches, a Sunday carvery to self service high teas. I’m bursting with ideas and energy. So yes I’m excited. You have to believe in positivity.
I KNOW I HAVE DONE THE RIGHT THING AND IT’S IMPORTANT TO GO OUT ON A HIGH’
“I’m really getting back to the ethos and origins of what I set out to do at Silvie’s in the first place. So while there has been lots of guilt, and panic and sadness, I know I have done the right thing and it’s important to go out on a high.”
For more details on future events, pop-ups and classes at Silvie’s go to https://www.silvie.co.uk/events