The Firestation Woodbridge are a fabulous Suffolk business, roasting coffee and providing visitors with a great coffee shop in which to try their wares. In our latest ‘interview’, General Manager Jacqui Grimsey gives us an insight into the wonderful world of coffee. Suffolk style.
What’s your background?
I have always had a varied working life, ever since I was younger, but I have always been based in retail and customer facing. As I got older, I realised I had a real love for food and drink, and so ended up leaning towards roles in restaurants, delicatessens, even a local brewery and now a coffee roasters and cafe.
What made you decide to do this?
I fell in love with the Fire Station Woodbridge through living here, and then when a good friend started working here, it became a regular haunt as it just has a completely different vibe to the rest of Woodbridge. It’s always been the slightly lefty, quirky place, that was accepting of everyone and had the added bonus of roasting their own coffee. I got to know the staff well and through one of those lovely life moments, I was invited to manage the place. I felt very humbled to be asked to run my favourite coffee house, as my dream was to always run my own food business.
What would you say your role is?
My role at the Fire Station Woodbridge is technically General Manager and a large part of my role is looking after the wholesale side of the Roastery, but I am a complete martyr and I love to get stuck in and get my hands dirty. I get such a kick out of interacting with my staff and customers, and making sure everyone is having a good time. So when you pop in, you’ll probably see me making coffee, whizzing around, or sitting in the cafe answering emails and chatting to the locals.
Is Suffolk a great place to work and if so, why?
You know, if you had asked me this pre-University, I would have given you a proper teenage grumble and told you I hate Suffolk and it’s all rubbish. I now think the complete opposite. University and a year travelling really opened my eyes to how beautiful Suffolk is. I feel very privileged to have grown up here, and to work in Woodbridge is very special. I think Suffolk, and especially Woodbridge, has a great community spirit and a big food and drink culture, and it’s very easy to meet like-minded people to share your passions. And if you need a break, the scenery is perfect to get lost in for a couple of hours.
What do you think makes The Fire Station Woodbridge out from the crowd?
Well, we certainly don’t like convention at the Fire Station Woodbridge. We are very proud of being very inclusive of all ages, genders, races and backgrounds – I like to see the cafe as a big front room where we welcome our customers like old friends. I want everyone to feel like they can come in, relax and put their feet up, whilst enjoying really fresh coffee roasted just behind the cafe. We also like to be a bit different in the music we play, the art we display and the bar events we offer. Previously we have had themed vinyl nights, board game nights, themed quizzes and pop-up restaurants, and 2018’s calendar is gearing up to be even bigger and better! watch this space…
What does the future hold for you and the business?
We’re always looking ahead here at the Fire Station Woodbridge as we always have so many exciting things we want to do! But the short term sees the addition of a monthly quiz hosted by Desmond Sparkles (he may be familiar to some…), as well as (I’m VERY excited about this one) our new Monthly Sunday Boast slot. This is on the 1st Sunday of every month, and we will be hosting a Roast Dinner club! Big plates of wholesome food, beer and wine to boot, so come fill your boots. The future future holds an exciting new venture collaborating with the Artstation in Saxmundham, so keep an eye on our social media for more information…
Which products or service are your personal favourite and what are the most popular with your customers?
I guess it might be obvious, but just our love of coffee. Coffee is our most popular seller in our cafe, both hot offerings and beans. We are always happy to chat to customers a the Fire Station Woodbridge about what we’re roasting and using for espresso, and how they can tailor our coffee to their needs. I’m very adamant that pretentiousness and snobbery – which can often be associated with the speciality coffee world – is not welcome here and I encourage my staff and customers to share their experience and feel comfortable to ask questions, no matter how silly they might think they are. Trust me – no question is silly, we all have to learn somehow!
What’s been your most embarrassing or most humorous moment in the business?
Blimey, I mean I’m fantastic at always being an embarrassment. Luckily I can’t think of anything too major, but I’m very good at forgetting how small our cafe is and that everyone can see me, so I am always singing or doing some stupid dance in the kitchen and then realising that I am fully on show. I do worry that my singing is going to put customers off…
Well us about three other businesses or organisations in Suffolk that you admire and why? (You can leave Woodfarm out!)
Ooo that’s a good question… It might be cheating, but I really admire the Wright Family and everything they have done with the Cake Shop Bakery. They are the hardest working, most driven and determined people I have ever met, and I am proud to now be working with them.
I would also say I really admire Applaud Coffee in Ipswich. I’ve known Hannah and Beth for some years since working at the Suffolk Food Hall together, and those 2 women have worked their socks off to make a success of their coffee shop. Their coffee is always spot on, and I love their cakes. They are always so smiley and happy when I go in too, and I wish them all the best with their new projects.
And lastly, I would have to say Old Jet Arts Centre at Bentwaters Park. What Jesse has done with the buildings up their is hugely inspiring, and I always have huge admiration for anyone trying to boost locals artists and creatives in the area. The monthly film Club there is brilliant – where else can you see great independent films whilst eating a Twix on a chaise-lounge? If you don’t know about Old Jet, go and look now – their events calendar is really exciting.
Thank you so much to Jacqui for this insight and for the fab coffee on my recent visit! To find out more about what they’re all about, check out their website and do go in when you’re in Woodbridge, you won’t be disappointed.
I’m also delighted to say that as of 2018 The Fire Station will be supplying the coffee in all our cottages and barges so you’ll be able to try their amazing produce whilst you’re here!