Heath mother and daughter fulfil dream of setting up coffee shop

Park Side cafe is already proving a hit with residents

HEATH’s newest coffee shop has been “overwhelmed” by the response to its first month of business.  

Park Side Café, on St Anthony Street just off Heath Park, opened on January 7 and has proven popular with residents and dog walkers.

“We hoped for it to be a success but the response has taken us by surprise,” co-founder Sophie Edwards said. “People are so kind and complimentary and everything has exceeded our expectations.”

Designer Sophie, 33, and her mum Sian, 58, a retired civil servant, have been life-long Heath residents and always harboured ambitions of running a coffee shop.

“It’s been a bit of a passion project,” Sophie says. “We have always had it in the back of our minds to do something like this together but we had never taken the leap.”

When the perfect location became available last year, there was no better time to finally make their dream become a reality.

Sophie says: “My mum grew up in Heath, I grew up in Heath and that shop has a lot of nostalgia for us. She remembers it as a sweet shop when she was a kid, while I did a paper round from there.

“During the first lockdown, we saw that the site was up for lease and I think it just gave us the kick we needed to go for it. My dad, her husband, passed away a few years ago and that really made us want to do something big together. Life’s too short not to take a chance.

“So it was kind of the perfect storm, being the right location at the right time. It ticked a lot of boxes, so we just thought let’s go for it!

“I think everybody in the area has always seen the shop on the corner and thought ‘that needs to be a coffee shop’. I walk my dog in Heath Park most days and there’s a few coffee shops dotted around, but I still think there was a definite gap in the market to inject some life into the area.

“It’s not just the park, we’re close to the hospital too. I really love the idea that someone might be on their way back from the hospital and stop in for a cup of tea and a bit of headspace.”

Previously a hairdresser’s, the mother and daughter had to apply for a change of use for the premises and also had deal with the unique scenario of setting up a business during a pandemic.

“It’s not been easy and we’ve faced challenges, but we expected that,” Sophie says. “We weren’t naïve and knew that things come up that you don’t expect, especially when you’re in a pandemic.

“We’ve faced delays as a result of the pandemic in terms of deliveries from suppliers and getting the change of use approved. But we were patient and it all worked out in the end.”

Sophie is also the founder of design company Studio Severn. This has helped Park Side create a strong brand both in terms of interior design and on social media.

“I design bars and restaurants in the hospitality sector every day so it’s lovely to have something of our own,” says Sophie.

“Design and brand is really important and I think if you’re a new business setting up you’ve got to make your mark. It’s a very saturated market so you need to offer something different and be able to catch people’s attention. If you can build a strong identity from the start, people trust you.”

Something else that is at the heart of Park Side is community, with all of their products – breads, sweet treats and hot drinks – sourced from local catering retailers such as The Tidy Kitchen Co, Heavy Hand Bakes and Hardlines Coffee.

“We were very clear from the start that we wanted to use local, independent suppliers and place a firm focus on community,” Sophie says. “I don’t think we would have wanted to do it any other way, especially in the situation we’re in now.

“It’s really important to support the independent scene otherwise they won’t survive. Perhaps that makes the prices slightly more premium, but that is relative to the wholesale prices we pay and the time and the hard work that go into these products.”

Due to coronavirus restrictions, Park Side has been forced to begin life as a takeaway only shop, but Sophie suggests this has been beneficial.  

“I would say it’s a good thing that has come out of a bad thing. It has given us the chance to learn and see what works and what doesn’t. We’ve been able to find our feet and pave the way for how we want to run long-term.”

But there is hope that the day customers are allowed to eat in is not far away.

“It will be great to see people sitting in there. Whether it’s one person doing work on their laptop or a group of people sat around eating cake, it will be amazing to see. Hopefully that’s in the not too distant future!”

  • Park Side can be found at 32 St Anthony Road, Heath. It is open from 8am-3pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 9am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.