Is this the smallest small business ever? Coffee entrepreneurs set up on tiny Newcastle site

Joe Meagher and Josh Thompson have established Lola's Coffee in the area outside Science Bar, near Central Station

Joe Meagher, who owns Lola's Coffee next Newcastle Central Station
Joe Meagher, who owns Lola's Coffee next Newcastle Central Station

Two coffee entrepreneurs have brought a taste of New York and London to the North East with an innovative take on the pop-up craze.

Former bank worker Joe Meagher, the owner of Flat Caps Coffee and Josh Thompson, the owner of Ponteland-based The Speciality Coffee Company, have launched Lola’s Coffee – in a familiar but underused Newcastle spot.

The pair have set up a small open-air coffee shop on the smoking terrace at Science Bar, at The Old Ticket Office, beside Newcastle’s Central Station.

In a bid to capitalise on significant footfall from the station the business has posted two baristas at the pavement-side spot, armed with equipment and signage to serve passers-by with quality coffee between the hours of 7am and 3pm.

Named after Mr Thompson’s young daughter, Lola’s Coffee has already had two franchise approaches in just three weeks of trading, and has also led to the development of a wholesale programme.

Mr Meagher said: “We started talking about what Newcastle needed, and had this idea to put something into underused spaces at a low cost.

“It was just at the same time that Paul (Skevington, owner of Science Bar) called me to say he had this space, and would we like to do something there. It was just meant to be, so we took the plunge.”

Tom Simington, who runs Lola's Coffee next the Newcastle Central Station
Tom Simington, who runs Lola's Coffee next the Newcastle Central Station
 

Taking inspiration from similar pop-up coffee shops found on the streets of New York and London, Mr Meagher describes Lola’s as the perfect business – marrying high street prominency with low overheads.

He added: “The concept is to increase the value of the existing business, but also use the underused space to create a viable business for ourselves.”

With a couple of other potential sites in the pipeline, the pair plan to use Lola’s to introduce North East coffee drinkers to a “cold brew” – a process which involves brewing in cold water for a sweeter, less bitter product that can be served over ice.

Mr Thompson’s firm has been active in developing a wholesale cold brew which is supplied to caterers and bars – particularly for use in cocktails or with tonic water.

He added: “It’s a good fit with this Lola’s idea because there is relatively little set-up cost and an innovative product that people haven’t necessarily come across before.

“We think cold brew is going to be the next big craze in this country. Artisan coffee houses in the States have been serving it for some time and had great success. It’s really tasty, sweet, contains caffeine but doesn’t have the calories.”

Mike Dand, who works at Lola's Coffee next Newcastle Central Station
Mike Dand, who works at Lola's Coffee next Newcastle Central Station
 

The wholesale business will market a whole coffee package, combined with Mr Meagher’s experience as a regional barista champion, to cafe’s and restaurants who want a speciality coffee offering.

Mr Meagher said: “Competing at the UK Barista Championships is really important for my customers and for Newcastle. Going down to London and mixing it with the best shows people that Lola’s and Flat Caps can give you a coffee that is made the best way possible.

“Now the aim is to pass that on to other locations and businesses. It’s very tricky for cafes, bars and restaurants to cultivate a genuinely great coffee offering – and that’s where we hope to come in and offer something of substance.”

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