Lockdown could well have signalled the end for many coffee shops and cafes and Stansfield & Hoole in Bicester’s Market Square was no exception.

In week one of the pandemic restrictions owners Tim and David were really unsure about the future of their three-year-old business.

“Initially, it was like falling off the edge of a cliff! “

But more than two months on and this much-loved independent has reinvented itself and is now becoming a regular coffee break pop up across Bicester and the surrounding villages, by offering fresh barista coffee, cakes, snacks and treats from their shiny new van to customers old and new who are missing their regular coffee shop experience.

Tim and David with their new coffee van

David said: “We thought, how do we bulletproof the business? How can we trade properly if there was to be another lockdown? We did our research and invested in a all singing, all dancing van.

“It’s made us think outside the box and given us time to focus on the business. We’ve been meaning to refresh the brand slightly for a while so there is no better time than now.”

Touring the villages, as well as serving Bicester central, the Stansfield & Hoole van is now a regular sight in Chesterton, Elmsbrook, Caversfield and Ambrosden. You can even ring and book a slot for your nearby village or street.

“Lockdown has made us think outside the box”

After a phenomenally busy week, Tim told us: “Initially, it was like falling off the edge of a cliff! We were unsure when we would be shut down. We knew it was coming but had to keep on trading as normal.

“Because of the van, we’ve had so many great comments and people think it’s fabulous. We’ve also met new customers, people who didn’t even know we had a shop in the town centre.

“Not only has it helped to keep the business going, it’s also promoting the shop in Bicester, which will hopefully help trade and footfall when we reopen.”

Nestled in the heart of Bicester Market Square, Stansfield & Hoole is a cosy home-from-home coffee shop.

Tim and David, who married last year, launched their business in 2017, determined to create the perfect place to unwind, relax and enjoy a range of coffee, tea, cold drinks, light breakfast, lunch or delicious cake.

“We’ve had so many great comments and people think it’s fabulous. We’ve also met new customers, people who didn’t even know we had a shop in the town centre”

Family and dog friendly, the café has a loyal customer following, and the couple hope they will soon be able to reopen and offer a takeaway service.

But then the pandemic arrived and the future looked bleak: “When it did happen, it happened overnight for us. Cashflow for hospitality is small so it has an instant impact. Now, we are slowly building ourselves back up,” Tim says.

So how did they manage to take a different approach and thrive during this time when so many businesses are closing?

“Apart from the van, we also took the time to give the coffee shop a new, fresh look, focusing more on the coffee and our new fabulous range of gifts, and built a website to sell them, and also promote our new coffee van, and the customers love it!

“The van will definitely continue though. It may eventually migrate into village pop ups and events while the shop trades, but we’re taking each week at a time.”

Post lockdown our high streets and shops may look and operate very differently. Tim added: “It is very difficult to know what Bicester might look like after all this. We hope that despite social distancing it’ll be busy, but we know some shops have closed down since lockdown and we doubt that’ll be the end of it. With all the restrictions, will it be sustainable? Only time will tell.” 

They are very clear about one thing though, and that is the reopening of their shop and are looking forward to opening the doors to customers once again.

“Yes, the shop will reopen! We’re obviously being very cautious and want it to be a safe environment. It’ll be takeaway only for now, coffee, drinks, cakes and snacks initially and then we will slowly start to offer light lunches.

“The van will definitely continue though. It may eventually migrate into village pop ups and events while the shop trades, but we’re taking each week at a time.”

The real impact to independent cafes and coffee shops is not yet known, and David and Tim feel it could take a while for things to return to a new normal. 

“All we know is it’ll be different. The shop will have to change, but the van won’t and that may become the heart of our business for a while. But we’ve got a great Stansfield & Hoole family, and fantastic loyal customers so we will all adapt, change where we need to, and embrace the new normal.”

For details of deliveries and the online gift shop go to www.sandhcoffeeshop.co.uk

The Stansfield & Hoole van goes to Chesterton Saturday 9.30am-11am, Elmsbrook daily Caversfield Thursday 10am-11am, Ambrosden Friday 10am-11am but it changes each week. You can ring 07851 344640 to book a slot for your village 

Find David and Tim on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sandhcoffeeshop/

Sarah Edwards

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here