Foodie Friends Join Together to Charm Montrose TownsfolkNeil Hardie
A foodie who has been highlighting her talents on social media has teamed up with a friend to bring their coffee and cake to the masses.
And residents of the Angus town have responded in the best way possible, with Lesley’s bakes selling out in only 50 minutes on one of the first days they were available at Donna’s coffee-selling horse box near the Flower Pavilion in Montrose.
The duo have been friends for 35 years, and even share the same birthday, so it could be said it was written in the stars that they would some day embark on a project together.
Donna opened her business during the pandemic last year, and it has proved to be a winner with people flocking to enjoy coffee and cake.
She revealed: “I have two mobile units, one of which is a horsebox called the Muckle Roamer that I have situated down at the old Inch Bowling Club where a friend has the flower shop there called The Flower Pavilion positioned right outside the shop there next to the green.
“I started there in August last year and the whole concept of the business came about probably just before lockdown last March. I started off with a wee teardrop caravan and called the business Roamer Coffee Company.
“The wee teardrop caravan was then renamed the Wee Roamer and I started down at the Flower Pavilion. That was when the whole concept of the business came from and where I really wanted to be situated.
“My husband and my children were ‘you need to be at the train station and here, there and everywhere’, but I am too old for that. It was really just an extension of the business at the flower shop, but it has just grown arms and legs.”
The caravan was originally based at the bowling club until winter set in, but such is the popularity of Roamer that Donna had to look at a way of providing something more permanent.
She said: “The original one, the wee teardrop caravan, moves around. It was down at the Flower Pavilion from August and I would take it back and forward every day.
“Once winter started to set in I didn’t know how busy it was going to be, but people really wanted us to stay and I think we became a little bit of a lifeline for people, certainly the locals as it was an incentive for them to get out for a walk and have a wee treat with a coffee and a cake.
“They were keen that I stayed over winter and that was when I got the horse box which I keep there permanently and that means when I’m not down there I can go out with the Wee Roamer.”
And getting out and about is proving popular, too.
“My first stint outwith the flower pavilion was last Sunday when I was asked to go down to the pro shop (at Montrose golf course) and we had a couple of hours there where we did a roaring trade,” continued Donna.
“Then on Thursday I took it down to the old aerodrome at Broomfield where there are lots of walkers. Honestly, it was so busy, and everything has gone down a treat, especially Lesley’s baking which has just been phenomenal.”
Teaming up with her friend is going down a storm with coffee and cake lovers in Montrose.
“We had a couple of days selling Lesley’s produce at the horsebox, and people knew about it as she is so well known and popular. On Sunday we were sold out in 50 minutes,” said Donna.
“At the moment her best sellers are the Creme Egg brownies and a caramel egg brownie. I just can’t get enough of them.
“People are not just coming in and buying one or two, I am maybe going to have to limit them as they are disappearing so fast. It’s not fair on people at the back of the queue. And there is also a cranberry ginger and white chocolate slice that she does that people love, too.
“The whole premise of my business is good local produce. My husband and I and a few of my friends never really thought there was anywhere in Montrose to get good coffee. It was to offer really nice artisan coffee, and keep it local to Angus, so I use Sacred Grounds coffee in Arbroath.
“Before Lesley was baking for me I did really well with Artisana Brownies which are absolutely amazing. They just flew out the door which was great for my wee business.
“She stopped doing her wholesale business and I didn’t know what I was going to do – then Lesley stepped in.”
Starting a business during the coronavirus pandemic might have looked crazy to some, but being an outdoor enterprise has seen Roamer Coffee just go from strength to strength.
“My timing couldn’t have been better, to be honest,” said Lesley. “I hate to think I have made a success of something because of Covid-19, but so many people were happy to be outside and I was offering somewhere to go.
“The Flower Pavilion is a wee oasis, it’s a wee community hub and people are really appreciative of what we are doing down there and the space. The amount of people who have said we have been so good for their mental health and it’s great to think we are putting a wee lifeline out there for them.
“Honestly it’s been quite humbling to think that we have managed to do that.”
As a future with the virus under control beckons, Lesley is confident that her business will remain popular.
“I am a ‘to go’, it’s outdoor, there is no indoor seating, but hopefully people will keep up with their outdoor activities,” she added.
“I think we have made such an impact and have such a loyal following that I think it will just go from strength to strength once things start opening up again. There are so many possibilities.”
Someone who has always kept herself busy in the kitchen, Lesley has found herself with more time to spend making her tasty creations.
And a partnership with her good friend, Donna, seemed like a natural way to showcase her baked goods.
Lesley said: “I have been a keen cook and baker for a long time and I have a bit more time on my hands these days.
“Donna is one of my very good friends and she started out selling takeaway coffees. She began with her teardrop cafe and now the horsebox which she has been able to keep open during these Covid restrictions selling artisan coffees.
“I was keen to do the baking for Donna, and maybe make some soups, but I had to be all certificated first before I could legally do stuff like that and she could sell them with her drinks – and if anyone else wanted to buy any of my products that would be great too.”
Lesley plans to cater for whatever suits the erstwhile coffee drinker’s palate when supplying her friend with cakes and bakes.
“I love cooking and I love baking, and it will really just be what the customer demand is,” she added. “A lot of my time was always spent in the kitchen, but even more so now.
“Donna did have Artisana Brownies supplying her, and the lady was scaling back, but there is definitely a big demand for speciality brownies and just home baking in general. People just really want to have and enjoy home-made goods these days.”
But before you can embark on such an enterprise it is vital that the paperwork is all in place, and Lesley, who has been married to Arthur for 32 years, has been working hard to ensure she adheres to the various regulations.
“It is a bit more difficult during Covid as the environmental health people normally come out to your house and inspect your home kitchen, but that isn’t possible just now” she revealed.
“I sent photographs in and my kitchen is fine, being more than adequate for the requirements and it was just a case of getting the paperwork completed.
“Years ago I did complete my food and hygiene certificate but because it had been sometime since I had done that I had decided to do it again. Once you have done it, you have it for life, but as it was so long ago I wanted to update it.
“It is all online learning just now and once you’ve done that there is an exam you have to sit.
“Everything is in place now and it’s really exciting to get started.”
And Lesley, who has two grown-up children, Laura, 28, and Grant, 26, is delighted to be teaming up with her good pal to bring their coffee and cake to the masses.
She said: “Donna hit upon this idea which she opened up during the first lockdown and it has turned out to be this absolutely super enterprise.
“It has been great for people and has helped their mental health. People just going out for a walk, pick up a coffee from Donna, have a wee chat and it has turned into quite a social hub.
“Since she opened, and has been abiding by all the rules, she has just been getting busier and busier – and it has been a great outlet for people.”
And a glance at Lesley’s Instagram page is a joy for anyone who loves sweet – and savoury – treats.
She added: “My daughter is back in Montrose due to Covid and what have you and she is a bit of a whizz on things like that, and she said ‘I will set you up with an Instagram page’ and it just went from there.”