How mobile coffee cafe built in vintage horse trailer survived pandemic

The owners of the Coffee Cafe, Andrew Nelson and Claire Grist.

The owners of the Coffee Cafe, Andrew Nelson and Claire Grist. - Credit: Claire Grist

The owners of a mobile coffee shop have thanked the community for supporting their small business, after the pandemic left them fearing for the future. 

It was a “dream come true” when best friends and co-owners Claire Grist and Andrew Nelson, launched the Coffee Café, which they built inside a 1960s vintage horse trailer back in 2018. 

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in...

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in Watton. - Credit: Claire Grist

After their first event at the VW Whitenoise festival, near Norwich, Ms Grist said business was booming and the bookings started to roll in. 

But at the height of their success in what would have been their biggest year yet, in 2020 the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, events were cancelled and the pair were left with no pitch and no source of income. 

Ms Grist said: “It would have been our best year.  

“It was just really sad because of all that hard work we put into getting those events in our diary and they were all cancelled.  

“We even got into the Royal Norfolk Show and that got cancelled too. We were picking up some great events. We were gutted.  

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“We wanted to continue with the business, but it was difficult to find a suitable pitch. Our set up is not really suited to roadside trading. So, we had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what to do.” 

Co-owner of the Coffee Cafe, Claire Grist with her daughter Angel Jackson, 15. 

Co-owner of the Coffee Cafe, Claire Grist with her daughter Angel Jackson, 15.  - Credit: Claire Grist

Ms Grist took up a job in a supermarket before an opportunity arose for the Coffee Cafe to pitch up on a friend's land at Lynford Arboretum, where they spent the next six months. 

The 37-year-old said business was going well with regular customers but due to unforeseen circumstances they were then given a months' notice to leave.

Despite the setbacks they faced over the past year, these resilient owners have now found a new home at Loch Neaton, in Watton, and have been “overwhelmed” by the community's support. 

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in...

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in Watton. - Credit: Claire Grist

Ms Grist said: “I thought it would be a great idea to find a pitch local to my home in Watton.  

“The town has grown massively over the past few years with very little on offer for locals to do.  

“With this in mind I contacted Loch Neaton on Dereham Road. It is a really beautiful spot and well looked after by a group of unpaid volunteers. 

“They happily agreed to let us set up and give it a try."

With the roadmap out of lockdown announced by the government last week, Ms Grist says they are looking forward to events returning and they have now signed a contact with Loch Neaton.

Ms Grist added: “We started trading on February 20 and it has been absolutely brilliant.

"I have witnessed first hand another example of a community coming together during these very hard times.

"It has shown me that Covid really has made people appreciate the small things - being able to go for a walk with family and enjoy a warm drink supplied by our little micro business.

“I just want to say a big thank you to the Watton community for supporting our little dream."

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in...

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in Watton. - Credit: Claire Grist

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in...

The owners of the Coffee Cafe - a converted vintage horse trailer -  have now signed a contract to pitch at Loch Neaton in Watton. - Credit: Matt Wells


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