09/12/2022
7 mins read

Over a Brew with Chapter One Coffee

Located in the gorgeous Weston Park in Sheffield, sits @chapteronesheffield, a converted horse box, ran by Matt and his wife Jo, serving great independent coffee with suppliers spanning all over Sheffield. It was great to hear a story of two owners who wanted to completely change the direction of their life, with Matt being an ex Police Officer and Jo previously working as a Civil Servant – Matt explained how nice it was changing from (sometimes) the worst person you want to see, to one of the best (a barista).

Being out in the open, come rain or shine, shows the true dedication these guys put into their business, a true family affair and a great addition to have on RWRD!

Where did Chapter One Coffee Come from? 

‘We started trading last July, but the idea has been in the mix for a few years now. The wife and I have both worked with big organisations most of our lives and we both wanted to move away from that. I’ve alway had a dream of starting my own coffee shop. The idea started from us being in a park….

A bit of a sad backstory, but my wife’s mother had cancer back in 2016. We have an amazing cancer hospital here in Sheffield by Western Park. The park that we trade in is actually quite close, funnily enough. When we were visiting, we’d come away for a walk through Western Park, and it’s just a lovely place for some respite, both for patients and the general public. We’ve always liked to use independent cafe’s and we thought this would be the most beautiful place for the families to come and have a cup of coffee, enjoy a coffee and take their minds off things…

We approached Sheffield council back in 2017 to trade in the park, it’s been a bit of a challenge since then I must say. We initially contacted them with the idea of building a shop on site, then the pandemic hit and unfortunately the council didn’t have the capacity to help us – meaning we couldn’t go ahead with the build. As we were unsure coming out of the pandemic the build was still going ahead, we asked if we could have a concession put in, something that we could move and work from anywhere. It would also be a great opportunity so we could build a presence in the park and build our brand. 

We then became part of the furniture in the park with our horse box and started to build a bit of a following. So that’s how we got to serving coffee out of our horsebox! We wanted it to be more than just us sitting somewhere and selling coffee, we wanted it to mean more to other people. Somewhere they feel welcome and can really take the time to relax and speak to us. We offer a discount to all the NHS staff, this was something we wanted to implement before we started to say thanks for all they’ve done for us. We’ve always wanted to try and give back.’

What are the logistics of the horsebox? 

‘We were torn between a horsebox and a Tuc Tuc, there is another independent in another Sheffield Park who we got to know who uses a Tuc Tuc – but you need to stand outside with one of those and that’s not something we wanted to do, especially through the winter. We got a company to do the conversion for us, we worked with them for the design and how we wanted it to look. The logo we did with a local graphic designer, once the horsebox and branding was ready we kind of went from there really. 

We love the look of the horsebox and we think it sits really well with the park. There’s an old bandstand opposite us which tends to attract events, weddings, and bands which brings a lovely feel to the park in the summer. The logistics with the horsebox is one of the biggest challenges that we face, we can’t leave it in the park and we wouldn’t want to leave it there overnight as it is open 24 hours. Every single day we have to tow it to and from home everyday. That is definitely the biggest challenge regarding the horsebox – definitely don’t need to be going to the gym when you’re doing that!’

What did your previous career look like? 

‘So my wife Jo has been a Civil Servant for the last 20 years, working for the Revenue and Home Office, I was a Police Officer for 23 years, we wanted to separate ourselves from that completely and separate ourselves from these huge organisations where you play such a tiny part in. 

We wanted to take control of our own lives and our own destiny, but do something that puts a smile on peoples face. Especially in my previous role, being the person for the last 20-odd years who people don’t particularly want to see on your doorstep starts to take a toll. So we wanted to work somewhere people want to come up to you, share stories and have a laugh.’

How did you first get into coffee and how did you find it getting involved in such a juxtaposed profession? 

‘It’s been fun actually, we’ve always been one of those couples who looks to find an independent coffee shop wherever we go, it’s always been in the routine. I’ve got a friend who is a paramedic, and for a short while a few years back, we used to serve coffees in a little village for residents heavily discounted for them. Me and Andy were the baristas there, he had done a barista course and essentially showed me the ropes. 

When I was between my jobs I also worked in a Costa, I did my barista training with them and despite them being a large company, they do teach you a lot about the background and essentials of coffee. After that, I would practice at Andy’s house and make all our friends coffee. When we got going, it started with myself and Jo and then both of our kids helped out and got us going with it. 

Right from the start it’s always been a family affair.’

Going into your second winter, what are the difficulties? 

‘It can be difficult, with it being a parking space, if the weather hits hard, there’s been times we’ve got the canopy out and thought this isn’t going to work. There’s been times when we’re all huddled round the small heater trying to keep warm, waiting for the next customer to turn up. But the beauty of it is, it’s that we’ve built up a whole body of regulars now who know us by our first names, and have become our friends. They come rain or shine with their dogs, even the dogs know us because we feed them treats – it’s just great!

That being said, we are quite reliant on the weather and we do need to make hay while the sun shines. We know we’ve got that coming up but we try to plan around that. One of the challenges we’ve faced as a new independent and not having worked for ourselves before, is having to train ourselves to not just think about the job all the time. You’ve got to remind yourself that you’ve been fit enough, happy enough and motivated enough to do the job properly and sometimes you do need to rein yourself back from being ‘job’ all the time. It’s a balancing act of giving yourself a break, or plowing through and making as much money as you can.’ 

Where did the name come from? 

‘Jo actually came up with it, as we’d both been working in these huge organisations since we’d left college – it’s a real leap of faith but it’s where we wanted to control our destiny and provide a new future for our kids. Jo said that we’d started a new chapter of our lives here, and the horsebox was chapter one. 

What coffee do you use? 

We use a local independent roaster called Smith Street Coffee, from Trevor. I was introduced to him by my friend Andy who I mentioned earlier. I just absolutely love it, the roast is perfect and Trevor is such a nice guy. You can go down there and see how it’s roasted and talk to him about the whole process. 

The bean that we use is his dark peat blend, we get so many compliments about it. We were always going to go with an independent and we try to go independent with everything we do. For example, we use Batch Tea Company who are a Sheffield independent tea blender, the milk that we use is from a farm on the outskirts of Sheffield called Our Cow Molly. Even down to the labels that are on the milk jugs is from an independent Sheffield label maker.
We play Sheffield music all day from the horsebox as well, our son has created a Spotify playlist of over 60 hours with music from Sheffield dating back to 1960. We also have university bands play as well to help promote them as well.’ 

 

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