Bude is home to an ever increasing number of cafes, catering for locals and the tourist trade, each trying to find their niche or unique selling point in order to make a living, so it was interesting to meet Jen and Steph Jones-Giles, owners of G’s on Queen Street. I first met Jen and Steph in 2011 and they have been kind, helpful and generally lovely to deal with ever since. Indeed, they were where I first met Bude’s Penny Farthing Postman, Graham Eccles, as they kindly allowed us to use the cafe for the interview.
Much of the food is home-made, such as jams, marmalades and salad dressings, but the owners are honest if something isn’t. However, let’s not just bang the vegetarian drum here. G’s apparently cooks a bostin’ (to use a Black Country term) meaty breakfast, too……..
Their other ‘specialism’ is a real interest in people, which is informed by their respective backgrounds. Jen trained both as a chef and as a social worker, while Steph worked as a mental health professional. Such backgrounds within the caring professions invite an empathetic approach to their customers and a keenness to tap into local need. Don’t worry, it isn’t social services in there and no one will interfere, but the skills of customer service and empathy are transferable.
Jen feels her social work skills are useful:“People will often come in and chat/unload, and we try to encourage a relaxed atmosphere where people do feel comfortable about coming in on their own for a coffee. We have strived to create a relaxed, comfortable environment serving good-quality food, not over-priced and to offer as much home – made food as we can. We always buy good quality and receive few complaints”.
Indeed, it is those breakfasts which G’s is particularly known for, though my daughter really rates the American style pancakes.
The town of Bude does have two distinct identities, winter and summer, and this change in persona must make life difficult for café owners. One of the differences noticed by G’s is that demand changes for certain foods. For example, chips are on the menu in summer as people want them more then. Fresh fruit, sadly, doesn’t sell, but compotes, etc., do, so a little imagination and lateral thinking is required. Also, impulse buys like muffins, flapjacks and cakes are popular.
As Jen says: “Regulars would never eat pasties or cream teas, but visitors like to have something traditionally Cornish, so we cater for all tastes and are also open to suggestions”.
G’s always starts the summer season by giving something back to the community. Strong jazz fans, Jen and Steph also strongly support the Jazz Festival, calling jazz week “a joy to be involved in”. Steph has been actively involved in the breakaway group, Bude Jazz, 2012. A fund-raising event to start the 2011 summer season made over £400 for a pamper room at the St Hilary’s Care Home and this year’s fund-raiser was for Sue Gear’s charity, Born to Be Wild..
Steph explains: “it is a tough time for local business but we can still give a morning’s trade, and it is lovely to raise money to start the season. It is a nice feeling and gives us a boost”.
The same altruistic, people-centred approach is applied to their staff. Jen explains that they are keen on staff training, and helping their staff, especially the youngsters, to gain qualifications like NVQs. But also their motivation is community-based. “We want to be a truly local café”, advises Jen, “by building up good customer relations with our regulars, who are very diverse. We meet some lovely characters”.
While Jen is heavily engaged in the running of the café, and the food preparation, Steph is more the back-seat business brain: “There are real people behind any business and at the moment, it is a struggle for many businesses to survive”. Jen adds that: “since 2010, a number of businesses have closed down, which is bad for Bude, and many are struggling with high rent and rates costs. Bude is wonderful for its variety of small independent shops, but business-owners need help at the moment”.
Help could take many forms but I especially liked Steph’s innovative suggestion: “My dream would be to pedestrianize Queen Street which a lot of people miss because they focus on Belle Vue, and create more of a café culture here, with market stalls and street selling, rather like the canal wharf area, providing space for outdoor seating at cafes, seats, street acts, etc. This would be a pleasant focus for the town but also a free range area for children whose parents wouldn’t have to worry about traffic”.
This idea sounds wonderful to me, providing a continental feel to Bude, especially during the summer months. But for now, don’t just drive round Queen Street; park up, then ditch the car, explore on foot and see what G’s and other local businesses have to offer. You will be very pleasantly surprised. Now if only Bude’s car parking rates could be reduced to encourage people to stay longer……….but that’s another story!