In May this year Ali and Jonny Aspden did something that would change their lives forever – they bought the Post Office and general store in Udny in Aberdeenshire, near Jonny’s family home of Pitmedden.
“We had always liked the idea of running a cafe that served fair trade food and drinks, but we had never really talked seriously about where we might do it.”
Ali Aspden, co-owner, The Coffee Apothecary
The couple, who met in Edinburgh, had been travelling around Canada and talking about setting up their own business. Originally thinking they would do something in the Canadian ski resort of Whistler, they changed their minds when the Mosshead General Store and Post office came onto the market.
“We had always liked the idea of running a cafe that served fair trade food and drinks, but we had never really talked seriously about where we might do it,” explains Ali. “Then, when we realised the Post office and shop were available we realised it was the perfect spot for a cafe, so we went for it.
The Post Office is very important to the people in Udny and the surrounding villages, and the previous owner was keen that the new owners would keep it going, so Ali and Jonny always knew it would be part of their plan. Jonny has trained as an official sub post master and the couple plan to train their cafe staff so that they are able to offer basic post office services.
The couple are currently renovating the whole building to create the cafe, which will have generous indoor and outdoor seating areas. The Post Office will remain open throughout, but once finished will have a new, open plan counter for a more friendly feel.
For Ali and Jonny, just opening a cafe isn’t enough; they want to make a real effort to run a coffee shop that sells only fairly traded and local products.
“It is really important to us to sell fairly traded goods. So we’ve spent a lot of time looking at and researching fair trade before deciding who our suppliers are going to be. We also want to be able to support local businesses; we will use local suppliers for our fresh supplies like fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat.”
The couple also wanted their banking to fit in with our ethos; so they approached Triodos Bank.
“Triodos had funded a community wind turbine in Udny so we were aware of their credentials; their ethos goes along with what we believe, and they were very supportive of what we were trying to achieve.
“Working with Triodos has opened up other opportunities too, for example, we have found a fairly trading hot chocolate supplier through our banking relationship, as they are also one of Triodos’ customers.”
The new cafe will be called The Coffee Apothecary, and, along with the Post Office, will be open from 7am until 4pm, giving commuters extra time in the morning to make use of the Post Office services and pick up a coffee on their way to work.
“We hope to create a popular community cafe that supports local and fair trade while building great relationships with local people.”
Ali Aspden, co-owner, The Coffee Apothecary
Ali says she and Jonny are very excited about their new venture, and are confident that closing the shop in favour of a cafe will be a popular move.
“People have always said this location, in the middle of Udny Parish, would be a great spot for a cafe,” she said. “It is perfect for commuters as well as those living in Udny Green, Pitmedden and Udny Station.
“This area has a good mix of ages – pensioners, teenagers, mums and babies – and we’ve even had a few requests from local groups who want to use the cafe as a meeting place once we are open, which is fantastic.
“We are really looking forward to developing this new business; we hope to create a popular community cafe that supports local and fair trade while building great relationships with local people.”
Ali and Jonny Aspden bought the Mosshead General Store and Post office in Udny Green in May 2014 with plans to renovate it and change the store into a cafe.
The Coffee Apothecary will offer speciality coffee, award winning teas and incredible hot chocolate as well as cakes, breakfasts and lunches. The couple has scoured the coffee, tea and hot chocolate industries to bring the finest products available from the most ethical sources.
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