Over a Brew with… Southpaw Coffee
This week we had the absolute pleasure of chatting to @southpawcoffeelondon co-owner Orlando. Having opened the store…
A wonderful chat with co-owner of The Muddy Puddle – Phoebe. We spoke about the importance of community, the challenges of starting your own business and how crucial the atmosphere of a cafe can be – guys you need Spotify in your stores, no library music please! Enjoy.
We took over the place on the 9th July 2019, so pre-pandemic. It was intimidating, weird and scary as we went into the pandemic. We live just a 5 minute walk from here and have lived in London for the last 5 years. I’m originally from Essex and Ben is from Argentina, hence the themed menu.
I’ve been in London since 2015, beforehand I was at university and worked in hospitality. I studied illustration and it was the sort of time where I finished school, didn’t want to get a job and didn’t want a gap year. It was the subject I got the best grade in, but I just went with the flow for a few years. I wanted to see where I’d end up. I like structure but I do like to be spontaneous as well, I don’t like to think too far ahead because things can change so easily.
This place landed in our laps, it was through a friend who owned it before, he came for dinner and said that he was leaving the country, and that was that. It wasn’t a dream of ours, we were both working our previous jobs and thought shall we leave and try to start our own business?
We knew we wanted to do food, but we wanted to do a food truck. We met our friend and he said about this place, it was so convenient, at a good rate and had studios to sublet down in the basement. It was super lucky that things fell into our laps, we managed to get some good investment through a friend and the stars aligned.
We mainly did the redecorating, but actually… no we did change quite a lot. The olive room was the biggest transformation, it used to have some white tiles, grey walls and few flashes of bright orange here and there, it was quite horrible! In here (the main room) it was actually a bit of a lads pad, the vibe has completely changed.
Unfortunately the previous owner got really ill and had to step away from the business, they did want to work together but unfortunately it didn’t work out for them.
We got pretty busy quite quickly, as bad as it sounds, a part of us was quite relieved when the lockdowns came in. We had 1 chef in the kitchen, with Ben helping out with no experience – I was up here with the team. But, there was a lot of demand already, we have a garden with a lot of seating which really helped. We were all a bit anxious going into it, as when summer was coming we thought- have we got ahead of ourselves here where it was getting so busy? I know that’s a really good position to be in, but it can shoot you in the foot sometimes – what if we couldn’t handle it?
Ben and I being complete amateurs, never ran a business before, Ben having only just come into hospitality, I’d never studied before, it was a whirlwind!
It was such a relief because I was so tired of being on the other side of hospitality, I did have management status but I was below general management and ownership. There were many things that I could see and wanted to change but I couldn’t because I didn’t have the authority, but it was because I cared!
You’d try to give people advice, but they just wouldn’t take it because you weren’t at their position. Obviously they can do it how they want to do it, everyone’s got a different style, but unfortunately it wasn’t serving me anymore.
Fortunately, when I left, a friend of mine was running a veggie/vegan pop-up, I was asked to manage that and that was a great opportunity. Unfortunately, due to the otherside of the business which was more meat based, it took over the veggie side.
I actually chose the coffee for Muddy Puddle, I used to work here for a little bit beforehand and they were using Caravan Coffee but weren’t doing enough justice. Not enough people knew that this place even had a coffee machine, so when we took over there was I wanted to market it. I love Caravan, they were really nice people and a great company to work with.
I learnt to make coffee at my previous job, I have more of a relaxed approach to coffee but I’ve had some really good people showing me. It can sometimes be like being like a wine sommelier. Here we know the coffee is good and we know we can do it justice.
We’re currently renovating it so we can use it for ourselves for the winter, we’re very seasonal and our busiest patches are in the summer so we need space for people in the winter. The main objective though is to take advantage of our alcohol license.
We’re the only place on the road with one, however we have a noise license outside which completely contradicts itself. We can’t have anyone out there after 9pm! To have people in downstairs being able to listen to live music and go to events will be amazing and we don’t have to worry about the noise!
Oh my god it’s amazing! It’s so tight, everyone knows everyone. There’s loads of schools around here so we know a lot of parents, kids, pets – the list goes on. I love North London as it feels like a village and still has the community at the heart. The reason we survived in lockdown was because it’s such a residential area, people loved it. We had music playing all of the time and the place worked perfectly for it.
With the atmosphere of cafes, I think people really need to take more note of it. I would definitely advise for anyone to get a music license, get Spotify on and play amazing music. It’s really not hard to do and it makes so much of a difference. People also work here from home, and if we can set the mood, that’s perfect!
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