A coffee shop has seen footfall almost double in the six weeks since the ‘work from home’ guidance was lifted in England.
Iron & Fire’s coffee shop, affectionately known as ‘The Hatch’ due to its open window serving hatch, opened next to Shrewsbury’s railway station in May 2021 at a time when venues were tentatively reopening but confidence in large, indoor venues remained low.
It has since enjoyed steady growth and an ever-increasing loyal customer base, but the growth of commuter traffic since January has made a significant difference.
Iron & Fire’s operations director, Joanna De Rycke, said: “The Hatch is ideally located alongside the train station and because we open at 7am, we’re perfectly situated for commuters in a hurry but needing their fix of coffee.
“We may not have been open for long, and much of that time has been with reduced commuter footfall, but we’ve quickly got to know the regulars and we’re meeting new ones every day – especially since the end of January as more and more start commuting again. Encouragingly, despite recent weather, we’re also seeing strong visitor numbers. We’re often the first venue that they come across on arrival into Shrewsbury and we’re looking forward to welcoming many more as the weather improves.”
The Hatch, previously a newsagent, was a building that Joanna’s partner and co-director Kevin had had his eye on for a while so when the chance to take on the lease arose, the pair jumped at it keen to restore the turn-of-the-century building back to its former glory.
Significantly, The Hatch is not ‘just’ a coffee shop. Iron & Fire has its own speciality roastery just two minutes down the road where it employs innovative methods to roast a wide range of coffee beans that it imports from around the world. Customers not only have the chance to enjoy a freshly brewed cup of ‘Colombian Jazz’, speciality ‘Geisha’ coffee or any of up to five other varieties, but can also purchase a selection of coffee beans that can be ground to their requirements, or choose from a selection of coffees pre-packaged in compostable packaging.
Director Kevin Burrows said: “Such a stunning building deserves to be used for something special and that’s what our aim with The Hatch has been from day one. This isn’t simply about providing customers with a quick cup of coffee – although we admittedly do that very well.
“This is about providing a flagship outlet for the coffee produced at Iron & Fire’s own local roastery and giving the public the chance to learn more about speciality coffee. It’s been my passion for many years since living in Australia where amazing coffee is a way of life, and nothing brings me greater joy than sharing that love and giving people the chance to learn more about what makes truly amazing coffee.”
Iron & Fire’s coffee shop employs three full-time team members and has an overall capacity of 30. As well as its own coffee, it stocks a selection of speciality teas and cold drinks, as well as pastries and cakes sourced from local suppliers.
Looking to the future, Joanna and Kevin haven’t ruled out expanding their coffee shop empire.
Joanna added “We supply our coffees direct to consumers and to outlets the length and breadth of the UK and celebrate every new customer that we work with. However, there’s something particularly special in serving our coffees direct to customers and we’ve enjoyed the past 10 months at The Hatch immensely. Whether we’ll expand this element of the business, all I’ll say is ‘watch this space’.”
By James Pugh
Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.