Former butcher’s shop turned into cafe after 100 years
Two Antrim businessmen have transformed a derelict one-time butcher's into a bustling coffee shop they hope will breathe new life into the town.
Storrie & Fee opened around two months ago but already the owners are looking at plans to expand and improve the premises to meet ever increasing demand.
The opening of the Church Street coffee shop follows a £28,000 investment by Richard Fee and Jarlath Storrie - the owner of Jude's Estates coffee.
The pair renovated the former home of one Antrim's best known family businesses.
A further £4,000 has been earmarked to upgrade equipment in the premises' purpose-built kitchen.
Richard (41) said: "The coffee shop used to be McCabe's butchers which was here for 98 years until Herbie McCabe retired two years ago when he was 86.
"Someone took it over from him for a short period and the building was pretty much demolished internally.
"When I heard that it was becoming available I came down and had a look and both Jarlath and I felt it was something we could develop."
However, the pair were faced with significant challenges in bringing the premises up to standard and the opening was delayed by almost a year.
To keep costs to a minimum, much of the work to transform the building was done by Richard and 42-year-old Jarlath.
"The inside of the building was really horrific and we spent a lot more money and time than we anticipated," said Richard.
"We would start doing something and another problem would turn up but we have put our heart and soul into it."
Jarlath added: "I do think as well that it would have been a different story if we had been 10 years younger with no kids.
"We were both juggling other jobs while getting the coffee shop off the ground, but by September it really became a priority to get it opened."
Both Richard and Jarlath are determined that the menu relies heavily upon local produce.
And they also use Jude's Estates coffee - developed by Jarlath after he and his family returned to Northern Ireland from Australia, where he ran a coffee company for two years.
All the products are cooked and baked on site and they are in the process of installing more equipment in the kitchen.
"We have really good staff and we want to keep them, so one of the things we are doing is putting in a new extractor system as it can get very warm in the kitchen and we want our employees to be as comfortable as possible," said Richard.
A former member of cabin crew at British Airways, Richard also set up and runs the Eye Feel Good charity and now oversees staff training at Storrie & Fee, which employs 12 people.
Meanwhile, Jarlath - the man behind Jude's Estate coffee and coffee distribution firm Wake Up and Taste - brings his extensive experience of the coffee industry to the business.
"I actually said I never wanted to own or run a coffee shop because it takes so much work," said Jarlath.
Richard added: "It was me who approached Jarlath with the idea.
"I had one of his coffees years ago at some event and I remember thinking how good it was and it was coming out of a mobile unit and that I would like to work with him if I ever went into business.
"It was a bit of a risk opening up a coffee shop in Antrim town centre but so far we have been delighted with how it is going."
Jarlath said: "While we are trying to be different to anything else in Antrim, we don't feel we are different from a coffee shop you might find on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
"We want to appeal to a wide range of customers, the pensioner, the mum, we are working to try and get local groups to come in because I know if we get 10 Park runners in on a Saturday morning, at least a few of them will come back during the week. We are also open on Sunday and in the evenings and it is working so far.
"We have had people come in and walk out again because there aren't enough seats, so that is something we are looking at."
He added: "I don't think we are perfect yet - there is still a lot that Richard and I want to do - but I think we are getting there and there is definitely the demand for a good coffee shop like ours in Antrim."