Opening the bun scuffle Cafe

Ready for opening

So, I decided to open a café.

This is the story of how it all started and how it feels two weeks after opening.

Towards the end of last year I heard a rumour, nothing more, that a café might soon be available in St. Agnes, the village where I live. A friend called me and asked if I might be interested in a partnership and, as she has been involved with a couple of lovely food businesses in the past, I was both intrigued and interested.

I did a bit of fact finding and we got together on 20th December to discuss how the partnership might work in principle. The problem was that we needed to act fast and the timing was unfortunately all wrong for my friend so I took a leap into the unknown and opened up the café, on my own, on 20th January this year.

Now a month isn’t very long to plan a business venture and as Christmas and New Year fell into that month, in reality I only had about two weeks (although I do remember basting the turkey and planning menus in my head at the same time!).

The café is based inside a community centre called The Miner’s and Mechanics Institute (MMI). This is a beautiful old building gifted to the people of St Agnes by the philanthropist John Passmore Edwards in 1893 “in perpetuity, for literary and scientific purposes as an Institute or reading room for the public benefit”. As the village now has a separate library the use has changed a little and you are more likely to find yoga classes or music tuition taking place inside but I am keen to find ways to support the original ideal.

I spent a few days at the beginning of January cleaning (with a little help from some lovely volunteers – you know who you are) and getting to know the building and its regular users whilst also trying to wrap up my other business commitments. At home I was planning menus, working out prices, designing posters, trying to open a bank account, sourcing suppliers, researching insurance and generally panicking. I had an industrial oven with a state of the art extractor system and couldn’t work out how to switch it all on! I had a beautiful, gleaming espresso machine and absolutely no idea how to use it. What on earth did I think I was doing? I hadn’t even worked in a café since I was fifteen and in those days all coffee came out of a jar.

Cappuccino anyone

Eventually I settled on the coffee I wanted to stock (Puro Noble; organic, fair trade and 80% Arabica) and the company I wanted to buy it from (Cornish Coffee, based just up the road in Redruth). They in turn sent the wonderful Henry to teach me how to make the perfect espresso and some milk frothing skills for beginners. He has promised to return to teach me more advanced skills and I can’t wait.

In no time at all it was Sunday 19th January and I spent 13 hours straight in my kitchen at home baking cakes, cookies and quiches, simmering soups and preparing other hot dishes for days one and two. I was dead on my feet when I fell into bed that night and yet sleep eluded me. My head was just too busy planning. Eventually I got up and crept downstairs and at 3.00 a.m. I was watching old episodes of Heartbeat just to shut my brain up.

Finally it was time to get up and head in to the café. Martin helped me to cart all my stuff across and (thank goodness) worked out how to switch everything on – apparently the cooker won’t work unless the whole extraction unit and GIS system are on. It’s obvious now I know but…

Then Martin left. The doors were open and I was on my own.

The beautiful antique clock on the wall would have ticked loudly had it been working (note to self, get the clock mended) and time seemed to slow right down. The two ladies who used to run the café had been very popular, everyone loved their cakes and their vintage china. What if they hated me? What if my white mugs are just too boring? What if my cakes just weren’t good enough?

I had a little word with myself and was rescued by my first customer of the day – my mum. Thank goodness for mums. Then a chap came in who was waiting for a bus, we had a chat, his (instant) coffee wasn’t hot enough because I had inadvertently turned the boiler off. I put it right and the world didn’t end. I was starting to think that I could do this.

For the rest of the day I was too busy to worry about anything. OK, so most of my customers were friends but thank goodness for friends. My mum popped back in around lunch time and stayed to wash up, she has been back most days since to help out, staying in the background and being genuinely, wonderfully supportive.

On Monday night I slept wonderfully well. On Tuesday I was up at the crack of dawn to get in and bake because I had sold two days worth of cake on the first day. And so it started again.

Two weeks in and I am averaging 72 hours a week – I am open Monday to Saturday from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. and I am working all of those hours plus shopping and preparation time in the morning and cleaning after I close.

And that’s it, that’s how it will be until I am earning enough to employ someone. Please, please don’t think that I am complaining because I am not (even if my feet are). I am having so much fun: I am meeting some lovely people, if friends call in at quiet times I have a chance to catch up with their news, I get to cook every day (even if it is a bit weird making curry at 7.30 a.m.), I have time to listen to people’s passions and problems and I am beginning to feel firmly rooted in my community again.

So if you find yourself in St Agnes please pop in and see me and, if you fancy a job, I hope to be recruiting very, very soon. The main requirements are that you are equally passionate about people and food.

Now, time to stop wittering, I have to go and bake some cakes…


12 thoughts on “Opening the bun scuffle Cafe

  1. Dearest Fi what a truly wonderful description of your first two weeks! I had absolutely no doubt that you would succeed and that you will go on being a total wow! I have just read your blog to the friends we are with over here and although they have never met you, the overwhelming response is that you ‘must be a lovely and amazing person’ we have assured them that you are indeed! Keep on doing what you do best. Xx

  2. What a lovely write-up! Congratulations on surviving the first two weeks and heads down for loads more! xxx

  3. I don’t know you, but I wish you all the luck in the world for your new business venture. If I’m in the area, I’ll certainly call in; it sounds lovely!

    • Aww thanks Sara – if you do ever make it to St Agnes please make yourself known – there is a coffee with your name on it 🙂

  4. ‘bun scuffle’ is great! The Cafe is light, airy and warm! There’s always a very cheery and friendly welcome from Fiona, with prompt and efficient service. The coffee is delicious, especially the Lattes, served in white mugs and certainly very good value for money! I’ve filled up my ‘Loyalty Card’ already! The lunches are very yummy and I can certainly recommend the homemade soups. As for the cakes, cupcakes and biscuits, they are irresistible! A really great start – congratulations!

  5. Hi Fiona

    Congratulations! I’ll be in to visit when I can. Your description is an inspiration – knowing what you want and just going for it, wow!

  6. Felt I had to comment about this fantastic place. We spotted it as we were waiting for a bus to take us to our start point for walking som of the South West Coast Path, returning to St Agnes at the end of the day. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go and investigate in the morning as our bus arrived, but we did call in late afternoon after our walk. What can I say. We both had scones with clotted cream and jam and a cup of coffee. These were without a doubt the best scones we have had in a long long time. Sadly we were moving on the next day, but do visit St Agnes each year for a break, so we will be back to try some of the other delicious offerings you had. Just wish we had found you earlier in our holiday. We were made very welcome to stay a little longer after we had finished eating and drinking as we had a tremendous downpour just as we were leaving. We will definitely be back. Would have liked to put a comment on Facebook but can’t find you on there. We usually search on Facebook for places to go and try whilst on holiday, just so glad the bus stop was outside. Free wifi was an added bonus too.

    • I am so glad that you enjoyed your visit – and your scones – we aim to please 🙂
      Hope to see you again next time.

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