There are very few people living locally who can be unaware of the story behind Cafe 1809, but to recap, Dame Kelly (a Hildenborough resident all of her life) had long harboured a dream of buying the old newsagents on Tonbridge Road where she had worked as teenager (firstly as a paper girl and latterly on the checkout) and turning the building (which in later years ceased to trade and became derelict) into a thriving village cafe and a community hub. In 2013 she realised this dream and purchased the building, and set about the hard work needed to develop it into the thriving cafe that it is today.
During Saturday’s celebrations, Dame Kelly briefly touched on the issues that she had faced during the project and the importance of reaching the milestone first year anniversary. As regulars to the cafe since it first opened, we can wholeheartedly say that it has definitely enriched the lives of people living here. As mothers of young children, it has been somewhere that we can visit regularly with our children, relax and enjoy great coffee, excellent food and (very importantly) meet up with friends. The staff are friendly and welcoming and the cafe is beautifully decorated and a real joy to visit. The effort to stock locally sourced food and drink and support the local community is evident throughout. Many groups meet and hold sessions here and there are exciting initiatives planned for the New Year as the Active Soul programme is launched (this is a free membership club created to bring together likeminded people who are interested in nutrition, wellness and physical activity - no matter what stage of their health journey they are at). There will be more details of this in the New Year, but if anyone is interested in signing up for courses, there are details below. There will also be the launch of 'Sparkle & Soul' in the New Year, on the first floor of the cafe, where customers will be offered a wide range of health and beauty treatments.
During the anniversary celebrations, Dame Kelly and her team had organised a fabulous day of great food, drink and entertainment. Customers were able to book for one of three sittings (breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea) and were treated to an opening speech from the lady herself, as well as great music from the pupils at Sackville School in Hildenborough and rising local star Sam Bushell. The back of the cafe had been transformed into a space to showcase its new products - Cafe 1809 coffee and strawberry & vanilla jam, as well as lots of beautiful Christmas gifts. There was also the opportunity to speak to the health coaches, Alison Nixon and Lauren Barber who are helping to deliver ’Nourish your Soul’ courses, as part of the 'Active Soul' programme. We opted to visit the cafe for afternoon tea and were greeted with champagne on arrival, and wonderful platters of sandwiches, frittatas, quiches, cakes and chocolate. The staff, who had been working since early that morning, were full of energy and enthusiasm and the visitors, young and old, were mingling and enjoying the party spirit along with Dame Kelly’s friends and family. The screens in the cafe were playing a montage of ‘ before and after' photographs, showing the truly amazing development of the building and how it had been transformed. Although we live in the village and were able to witness the building work and improvements as they happened, we had forgotten just how much work had gone into making the cafe such an amazing space in what had been a sad and empty building.
Dame Kelly has never made any secret of how important the cafe’s success is to her. Her tenacity, sheer hard work and dedication is plain to see. The first year of any new business is notoriously hard to crack, along with some opposition and the inevitable teething problems that come with setting up a thriving establishment, it is fair to say that her success and profile have probably made her a larger than average target for scrutiny. It is wonderful to see that she has achieved everything that she set out to do and then some, with the added bonus of giving Hildenborough a true core and uniting the community. This has been no mean feat (even for a double Olympian!)
We feel that she has surpassed hers, and everyone else’s expectations and brought something really special to the village, it compliments the local groups and Farmers’ Market and offers people of all ages somewhere that acts as place to socialise as well as enjoy great food and drink and buy locally sourced produce. She genuinely cares about the village, its residents and bringing something special to Hildenborough and we fully support her. We cannot wait to see what 2016 will bring, here’s to your second anniversary Cafe 1809!
To enquire about ’Nourish Your Soul’ courses as part of the Active Soul programme - firstname.lastname@example.org