1950s double-decker bus converted into vintage café in Mulbarton
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016
In its 1950s heyday, it shuttled children to and from school.
But 60 years on - and firmly off the road - a 1956 Bristol Lodekka double-decker bus is about to start a new chapter as a country team room café.
The brainchild of friends Rachael Ives and Samantha Smith, Blakeys opens in its permanent home on the social club grounds in Mulbarton today.
Mrs Ives, 43, said: 'I've lived and worked in Mulbarton for years and every time I drive through it I wonder why there is no café. The Common is so busy with dog walkers, families and parents picking up kids from the schools that it seems like a perfect location.'
After being made redundant two years ago, the mother-of-one decided to make the idea a reality and - with the help of business partner and friend Mrs Smith - searched high and low for a suitable venue.
And over the last few months the pair have busied themselves with restoring the bus, which still has its distinctive open-back platform - with every nook and cranny now packed with vintage china and pots and pans and the exterior benefitting from a fresh lick of paint.
'At first I thought this would all be easy,' Mrs Ives, who lives just off Mulbarton Common, said. 'But then I got to work and realised how much there was to go. We've retained and restored the classic parts, like the poles and bell stops, but have also a fitted a really high-end kitchen.'
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Hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches and light lunches will be on the menu, whilst offering a much-needed place to meet for the village.
Mrs Ives said: 'People's immediate thinking is a bus in a lay by serving up burgers - but this is not what we are doing. It's a classy place to be, with bunting and lovely curtains.
'We want it to be somewhere people come to meet and chat after going for a walk on the Common or picking up their kids from school.'
The project has received the backing of Mulbarton Parish Council, who listed a café as a priority for the village in its neighbourhood plan.
There will be a kitchen and small seating area on the ground floor, with seating for about 25 people upstairs. It will open seven days a week.
During its days as a school bus, Blakeys was thuoght to have operated in Lowestoft. After it retired, it was converted into a driver training vehicle.
In 1999, it was fully restored and, in 2010, was sold to a pub to use as a smoking shelter.
But it fell into disrepair and last October Mrs Ives and Mrs Smith rescued it from the scrap heap.
For more information, visit www.blakeysbuscafe.co.uk• Do you know of a café setting up in an unusual environment? Email email@example.com