Miles
31/08/2022
6 mins read

Over a Brew with Hannah – Frenchie Wandsworth

When did you first start Frenchie?

‘We opened on the 5th December 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. It was a good time to get a unit to be honest and actually negotiate on rent. We didn’t really know what it would entail, we didn’t even know if we would have to fully close down, luckily we were able to do takeaway. That meant we could do a bit of a soft launch, get established and have some time for people in the area to get to know us. 

Why did you start Frenchie?

‘I always wanted to start a little brunch place and obviously coffee goes hand in hand, my friend was really into coffee and then it all kind of came together. He recommended we use Caravan coffee and we haven’t looked back since, we’ve been using them since we started. We tried all the samples before opening, the daily blend just works for us and we’ve had no complaints!’

What brought you to Wandsworth?

I live just off Northcote road, so it’s only about a 20 minute walk away. I didn’t really know this street existed beforehand, but after looking at commercial premises this one came available and I fell in love with the street. It’s got a really nice villagey vibe to it, the people who live around here are so friendly and the other shop owners are so lovely.

When we first came, this was a main busy road, they pedestrianised it during the pandemic to help with the smaller businesses. Then there were consultations and petitions put out by the local residents to keep it pedestrianised, they actually won and now no cars can come through here. It helps us massively as we’re such a small shop and we couldn’t have any tables on the road due to it being a bus route. It was such a busy road for how small it actually is. As a result I think another 4 coffee shops have opened on the road – I think everyone brings something different and it works, it’s a nice community. 

What was your goal / USP when starting Frenchie?

I wanted to bring in as many dogs as possible, the idea is based around my French bulldog – Clive. The silhouette that you see on our cups is him. He is 7 now, and basically I’m just obsessed with French Bulldogs, so I thought what not base it on Clive? When we opened, so many people brought their French Bulldogs in to take photos with the boards, the cups – but overall I wanted Frenchie to be super dog-friendly, to serve good food and coffee and to be aesthetically pleasing. I love interior design, so I take great pleasure in anything to do with interiors, that was really exciting doing all of that.

I designed all the interiors myself, the counter top was made by the joiners who did the wardrobe in my flat – they’d never done anything like that before and they did a great job. We’ve had the machine sprayed to match the colours of the shops as well. We just wanted to keep it really simple, neutral and clean. 

What was the process from buying the property to getting it open, what was it like? 

We had about 3 months for the shop-fit from once we’d taken over the lease, that was exciting because that was fitting everything out how I wanted it, and seeing it all come together was amazing. When we opened I thought – ‘oh god what have we done?’. 

Our coffee machine broke on the first day, we could only long blacks because the pressure came out on the steamer! We had an engineer come out on the same day, even he said this never happens, and it was a brand new machine! The days previously we had used it before to train and it had been working absolutely fine, as it is quite essential for a coffee shop, it was very stressful – the kettle was definitely getting a workout. 

What were you doing before the inception of Frenchie? 

Beforehand I was a Probation Officer for 12 years, I’ve worked in hospitality before that and at uni, but this was the first time I’ve ever started my own business within hospitality, I’ve learnt so much. 

If someone were to be starting their own coffee shop, what tips would you give them? 

I would say stick to coffee, don’t do food! It’s a nightmare. We’ve got our kitchen downstairs, we’re open 7 days a week, serving nice simple brunch until 3.30pm every day of the week. Another reason why I wouldn’t do the food is the cost as well, in terms of actually getting the produce it’s been fine, but the increase in price has been nuts. You can’t even pass the increase onto customers, who would come to brunch and pay £100 for two people? 

Going forward, are you looking to open any more shops? 

Absolutely not! I say that, if the right premises came up, as the rent here is so cheap, if something came up and it was an ideal location then I would think about it. But it would have to be absolutely perfect. From doing this, I know what to do.

What is the community like around here?

It’s absolutely lovely, everyone knows each other and it feels like you’re in a little village. You have people come in every single day for a coffee and it’s so nice to see them. Everyone who owns shops around here is so helpful, whenever you need anything everyone will try to help and it really feels like everyone is in it together. The footfall for the size of the street is great, and it’s just a lovely bustling little area. 

This is one of those streets that you find by off chance, you find ‘it actually looks quite nice down there’ 

Can it be competitive at times with the other coffee shops in the area?

Everyone offers something a little bit different, if anything it has actually been quite good for the street. At first when I saw all these shops opening, and I was opening Frencie, I was having a breakdown. In actual fact, it didn’t affect us at all, I had to look at it with a positive light, and they do bring more people to the street. 

How do you feel about the chain establishments in the area and do you see a decline in their clientele? 

To be honest, they’re still all really busy, the Costa down the road has a great spot right by the station. They’re the first shop you see and people know Costa, everytime when I get here in the morning it’s always busy. I think during the pandemic people did start to support smaller businesses a lot more, and overall they were just a lot more recognised. 

I think the public’s mindset has changed, but it is just trying to get new people to try something new – which can be challenging. I think it might be a mindset as well that people think these sorts of chains are cheaper – but they’re really not, and the coffee isn’t very good! 

Words by Curtis Connor – RWRD App.

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