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New Stratford café bucking the trend as it opens during Covid-19 lockdown

IF you’re looking for positive signs that the high street is still alive in lockdown, then look no further than Phil Lees.

Phil, together with wife Kim and father Kevin, have opened a new café in Stratford’s Sheep Street – the Midsummer Garden Coffee House.

Phil Lees at Midsummer Garden Photo: Mark Williamson M2/1/21/9724.
Phil Lees at Midsummer Garden Photo: Mark Williamson M2/1/21/9724.

The timing might not be perfect for opening in the hospitality sector, but with the renovations finished and the business plan and menus in place, Phil said he was itching to get back to work.

His business background is in commercial baking – the family was behind the successful Fatherson Bakery firm in Alcester, a venture they built up from a handful of staff in 2007 to a team of about 70 and a turnover of £4m a year.

They sold the business in 2019, with Phil taking some time out to spend with his family, including three young children, at their home in Lower Quinton.

With the sleepless nights associated with twins now behind him, he started looking for a new venture, one where he could continue to be his own boss.

The Garden Café came on to the market and eventually a price was agreed. The family trio became the owners on 29th September.

“A couple of weeks later the shopfitters moved in and renovated the whole place, and it’s looking absolutely fantastic now,” Phil said.

The garden theme includes artificial roses on the wall and ceiling, while the business is aiming to provide a unique offering – coffee, patisseries and German and Belgian beers you cannot find anywhere else in town, as well as quality breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas.

When the coronavirus restrictions end, the café will also turn into a relaxed bar in the evenings, open to 9pm, when the menu will feature tapas.

Five jobs have been created so far while the café offers a takeaway service, but Phil expects to take on more staff when trading conditions allow.

“We’re certainly bucking the trend,” he said. “Whereas most businesses are closing, we’re opening. We hope we can be one of the green shoots to come from 2020 into 2021 in the town centre.
We’re creating jobs and investing heavily.”

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