From Marine Archeology, to pole dancing* to now the owner of Proper Coffee House in Margate, Violet, has lived an interesting life. Raised in a small town in Cambridgeshire, Violet, 27 comes from a family of artists. After some travelling and exploring various interests she has now fulfilled one of her biggest dreams; of offering people a cosy cafe that serves the best coffee in town and homemade cakes to everyone’s liking.
*Oh just for exercise!
What brought you to Margate?
I have always been interested in owning my own business. I was working in a coffee shop London, and I met a girl whose dad owned this place. She has said to me that her dad was having trouble renting this place out in Margate, so why don’t I have a look. I had heard a lot about Margate in the past, in the news, the whole Mary Portas thing, etc so I came and had a look. It was in the dead of winter, it was cold and I was a bit skeptical about the place. I wondered if I could do it. But then we came back again to have a look and by then I had heard so much about the regeneration in Margate, I thought, ‘just go for it’. It was really good rate and rents, it was deal I really couldn’t refuse. That’s how we came here. It’s got a lot of potential.
With cheap rents, the building sometimes come in a very bad state, so was it difficult setting it all up?
It was! The place was in a very bad state. The most difficult part was to finding good builders in a new place. But apart from that we got a lot of help from the locals which was great!
How did you come up with the name Proper Coffee House or as it is locally known, Proper Margate?
Proper Margate is our twitter name. For the cafe, it took us ages to think of a name. I kept saying how I want to get things done properly, I want the cakes to be baked properly and my association with the word proper suddenly hit us with what we have now: Proper Coffee House. We thought it was a name you could put anywhere. So we could expand the business with the same name.
Margate old town is full of little tea rooms and cafe’s. What is it that sets you apart from the rest?
Well, I make all the cakes myself and I have always believed that my cakes are good. I worked hard to get my cakes to the standards I wanted them to be. I went to Le Cordon Bleu in London to do patisserie. I feel that it’s not just that but it’s because we wanted it to be so welcoming, we wanted it to be comfortable. We think it’s us as well who make the difference! It’s not just what we do but who we are. We have become friends with so many people, I think that’s what sets us apart.
Coffee served in here is one of the best or probably the best coffee served in the whole of Isle of Thanet. So I want to know where do you get your coffee from?
Our coffee is from an East London company called Union. They have different blends and the one we have is called Revelation. I think it is sourced from all around the world. It is amazing coffee. It is really nice – strong and smooth!
If you were a customer in your own cafe, what would you order from the menu?
I would probably order a cappuccino and Victoria sponge. Its my favourite. I am simple. (She laughs as she speaks)
You mentioned that you want this place to be comfortable, does that mean you will be making changes to the cafe according to the changing seasons?
We have just completed our first full year. In summers we have doors wide open, we have the back bit open and put flowers all over so its really nice. For winter we have a cosy corner with the fire on and lower lighting. But in summer people obviously don’t want that so we open the place up a bit to make it feel fresh.
Can you describe Proper Coffee House in 3 words?
Welcoming, artistic and local.
In what other ways is your cafe local?
We have recently started selling fresh fruits and vegetables sourced from local Nash farm mostly. We also sell juices and vinegar produced by Little Stour Orchard and all our chocolates are also sourced locally.
You manage most of the cafe on your own and get help from this mystery man behind the counter. Would you mind introducing him a little bit more?
He is my partner Gareth. He is a helicopter pilot. At the moment he is trying to be a commercial helicopter pilot so that he can start training people. It was a huge thing for him to move down here with me. He has moved his training to Manston. It is so convenient that Manston was here, otherwise I don’t think he would have taken it. So that worked out really well.
What do you do when you’re not working in the cafe ?
I work all the time. But ummm, what do I do? Does eating out count?! I love eating out, going to little tea rooms, walking down the beach and I play the piano.
Any word of wisdom for aspiring business owners or youth to achieving success?
I think especially in Margate it is a good time given there are good rents. And basically if you want to do something and you can get a good business plan together, there are people out there who are willing to help, even landlords are willing to help, you know. If you want to do something the best thing is to talk to people. The only way you are going to find out about opportunities is by talking to people and if you don’t give it a go then you will never know. And if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out – but you tried.
International Womens Day is on 8th March. And while we celebrate the achievements of women, there are a lot of women who feel otherwise. What do you think is one of the biggest problem faced by women today?
I think it could be the lack of their own self-belief. That could be a big thing for women, in England.
Proper Coffee House has a very comfortable environment and I can vouch for that personally, as I use their cafe as a replacement office myself.