The Market Years - Starting a speciality coffee business in Sussex

Horsham Market

Starting a Sussex Coffee Roaster

For the early years of Horsham Coffee Roaster our main income stream was the weekly Horsham food market. (Horsham is a beautiful market town in West Sussex and is, quite obviously, who we are named after.) We had a market stall every Thursday and Saturday from 2010 until late 2013 - selling both our lovely quality coffee beans and hot espresso based drinks, it was a steep learning curve for us. I had to learn quickly how to make a halfway decent flat white that wouldn’t be an embarrassment to our brand and we had to create a logo, banner and all other kinds of marketing paraphernalia that we had no idea about previously. Both Bradley and I were totally flummoxed by all of it but somehow managed to muddle through. The market itself was brilliant. Run by the formidable PJ and Marion, now owners of the fantastic Crates shop and café in Horsham, there was a wide range of different food stuffs on offer. It was lovely being next to a wide range of different food, but not so good for the waist line. We were often neighbours with The Hungry Guest, lovely bread and sometimes a cheeky free cinnamon swirl thrown in. For a few glorious weeks in a very cold winter I was next to a paella stall - got to stand next to a big hot steaming pan of yumminess. The problem with a quality market is that you end up eating all your profit- but who can resist venison sausages when they are staring at you all day?! The thing I remember mostly about the market was the cold. It seeps up through your feet. I’d be like the Michelin man, legging, ski trousers, 3 pairs of socks and walking boots. 4 layers and a coat. Not easy to steam milk in those circumstances (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.) I was also highly caffeinated at all times - nothing beats a coffee when you are freezing cold in minus temperatures. There must have been warm days I suppose, but for some reason I don’t remember those. There are many good memories - The day we had a queue all day at one of the food festivals and I lost my voice completely. The day a very righteous lady informed me that she had ‘checked at m&s and our coffee was more expensive’ (The patience it takes to explain politely that roasting our own much higher quality coffee beans in smaller batches would naturally make the coffee more expensive.) The day we got to pack up early as the wind blew a gazebo over, swapping delicious home made chocolate and other food for coffee. But what I loved best about the market was the people we met and chatted to, other stall holders were so friendly (helped possibly by our marker trader discount coffee) and I loved hearing about how they started their businesses and how much work went into the different products. We also gained a lot of regular and loyal customers who would come back and discuss the different flavours they experienced. Interesting people with a wide range of different and interesting jobs. We also met Stephen, a fellow coffee lover who came to be our very valued employee, back in 2012 when he was just a sprightly 18 year old with far fewer tattoos, just before he was off to learn more about coffee in Toronto, the city that started our own coffee journey. We eventually stopped our market stall for a variety of reasons. We tried to go back after the birth of our second son in summer 2013 and lasted 5 months - (not bad when you have a bottle refuser, again I apologise to the people of Horsham if you had a flatwhite served whilst I was flustered and trying to feed a small boy.) The wholesale side of the business was flourishing by this point, and it was winter. It just seemed like a good time to stop, although the fond memories remain. Stopping the market allowed us to focus on sourcing great coffee and and increasing our roasting capacity. Plus our coffee at that point was available to purchase as retail bags at Crates and we continue to supply them with a fresh weekly delivery to this day.

Written by Amelia Steenkamp

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