Sat, 22 Dec 2018
JAMES Priddy took over Weavers Coffee Shop, with the view of maybe running it for four years or so. That was just over 30 years ago and he hasn’t regretted staying for a moment.
“When I took over the café, I’d had some experience working in a hotel and in supermarkets, but I had never run a place like this. The previous owners stayed for a week showing me the ropes, then left me to it!.”
When James first took over the cafe, it was half the size it is now.
In 1994, he bought the next door unit and extended the premises both upstairs and downstairs. The coffee shop also has outdoor seating. “People love to come down here in the summer months,” says James. “There’s a whole different vibe away from Northbrook Street – you almost forget where you are. You can just sit in the courtyard and soak up the sun.”
James will be the first to admit that a lot has changed in Newbury over the last 30 years, but he has built up a loyal client base and is still adding to it, as people discover this reliable independent café, tucked away in Weaver’s Walk.
James runs the café with a team of four, one of whom has been with him for 24 years and two others for 13 years, so he clearly inspires loyalty.
“We know each other really well, so we have a good working relationship. A lot of banter goes on behind the counter and customers will sometimes remark that they like listening to our chatter while they are waiting for their food at the counter.”
And the range of food that James offers in the café has expanded considerably since he took over. “The breakfast is particularly popular, we serve it up to about 2.30pm because people love to order it for their ‘lunch’.”
Trends come and go, but as James discovered, once you start offering something, it is very difficult to then remove it from the menu. He added toasties, then paninis, jacket potatoes and more recently vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
“I once toyed with the idea of removing egg mayonnaise from the choice of sandwich fillings, but there was such an outcry,
I had to keep it on,” he laughs.
About 80 per cent of the customers who come into the café are regulars. Indeed, while we were talking, a couple of ladies were enjoying their breakfast and told me how wonderful the café is.
One said they do the best jacket potato with brie and bacon and the other told me how she brings her autistic daughter to the café on a Saturday. Her daughter, she said, loves the atmosphere and the food and particularly feels comfortable there because it has a cosy vibe.
“Businesses come and go in the area, but we have built up a loyal following and every day is busy – particularly lunchtime and weekends,” says James.
“And among our regulars are adults who came as children and now bring their own children in. We’ve even had somebody working for us whose grandmother and mother worked here.”
The café certainly has a welcoming, bright atmosphere, with paintings and photography by local artists on the walls and a quaint old-style caff ambience.
James doesn’t know what the next 30 years holds, but for now he’s happy providing Newbury customers with a warm welcome in the centre of the town. As we leave, he takes three more breakfast orders and gets cracking with the eggs.