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 tearoom 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 do. We've retained and restored the classic parts, like the poles and bell stops, but have also 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