A Bit of a Gamble

I thought I would try and document the journey from opening our first venture as a sort of pop-up in Sharps Barbers (9 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia) to our eventual move to Brockley.


I'll try and re-cap the first part of the journey quickly, followed by week by week updates on the progress of the current build and share any tips we learnt on the way.

It is the summer of 2019, after a few beers with friends when Tom and I decided we have worked in hospitality a long time (over 10 years!), and it was now time to try and do it ourselves, opening our own coffee shop. We wanted to express ourselves in our own way, unshackle ourselves from the restraints of a well established business and brand. We wanted the freedom to shape a brand all on our own, the way we imagined our dream coffee shop to be - it has to be one of the most liberating decisions I have made to this date. 

We took our first tentative steps towards this when Tom visited a retail shop in Stoke Newington. After speaking with the owner, a rough plan was put in place - we would run a café out of the retail shop on weekends. We naively thought we could keep our current jobs and work the weekends in our new shop. We were swiftly talked out of this by our then boss - which on reflection was definitely the best for us (I still don't know why we thought we could work 7 days a week in perpetuity).

A month or so later, I received a txt from someone I had trained in espresso, she mentioned a space in a barbershop she managed, that needed new tenants - it had everything we needed to open and run a coffee shop. It was a very intriguing site, a barbershop/coffee shop split, with a male grooming service that was run in the back room. After checking it out, we decided to take it on, told our boss and made our move in the next month.

We scraped together some money and bought what was needed.

Good as Gold first opened in September 2019.

It was in February 2020 that we found ourselves in a really good position, we managed to make the place busy, had a good amount of regulars, and we were loving it. We managed to turn a bit of a problem site for some of the previous tenants (as we would find out a few months in), into something that was fun and busy. It was hard going, there were days which made us question whether or not we made the right choice, leaving our stable jobs behind for something that was new to us. It was a challenge but that is why we put everything in it to make it work. 

There is one moment that we look back on and laugh about - we were quiet one day, so we decided to eat our lunch outside the shop, exclaiming loudly to any passer by how delicious the food was, in desperation to coax new customers in.

Anyways, as mentioned, by February everything was looking rosy.

A couple of months later we were forced to close - Lockdown 1.0 had begun. 

It was during the first few months of the pandemic that we started to consider our positions. We decided it was best to try and relocate into a more residential area instead of sticking it out in the city. More and more offices were closing and more and more people started working from home. It also seemed as if the neighbourhood coffee shops were insulated from the pandemic, as their customer base increased they stayed open supplying take away coffees and pantry items that supermarkets kept running out of. 

In all honesty it was a very frustrating time for us. As we were subtenants, we did not pay business rates directly and due to the shop's city location, the rateable value was over the threshold to receive a recovery grant. Watching residential coffee shops receiving the grants while being able to stay open compounded these feelings of frustration and FOMO.

A new discretionary grant was then set up, specifically for businesses that were subtenants however, the total applications for this grant far exceeded the money that was allocated by the Government (surprise, surprise!), the money was prioritised for businesses with much larger overheads than us.

We slipped through the net, again.

We reopened after the lockdown restrictions were lifted, however it soon became apparent that we could not continue where we were. The city had not recovered. We were seeing an 80% drop in sales, unfortunately for us an unsustainable amount for us to continue.

Tom and I started our search for a new site. We found a potential one, very close to where we lived in Brockley, South East London. It had been used as a betting shop for the last 30 years, so you can imagine the smell and state it was left in. However we fell in love with it. It had this charm about it that we couldn't put our finger on. We decided to take it on. Luckily for us, our lease at 9 Windmill Street was up at the end of August so we decided not to renew.

We applied for a business loan and started the negotiations for the lease of our new home.

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