Rarely have I been impressed with a chain of coffee shops, no matter how small. Simple logistics and the economic practicalities of multiple outlets does little to embody the individualism of a single self-managed business where everything is unique.
So it is with great pleasure and admiration that I would like to introduce the Coffee Saloon(s!) in Dorset, England
The back-story to the Saloons came from the genesis of another coffee shop (The Dancing Goat, also in Dorset), which the owner set up in 2009 following a trip to Perth and subsequently falling in love with the original Dancing Goat in Swanbourne (now The Other Side (great too! (how many brackets can I use in one paragraph!))).
Having run ‘The Goat’ successfully for over five years, Colin (above) established the Coffee Saloons with a goal to replicate the same quality and feel of the Goat throughout several outlets without loosing the individuality and quirky nature which was so well received by the locals.
Hence the Saloons came about and through weighty man-birth the first opened in Poole, Dorset in 2014, have since grown to five shops and already a few more on the horizon.
“To occupy exciting and unusual spaces and make them welcoming and inviting”.
Needless to say, the coffee and staff are excellent, but what really works is that each shop carries the theme while maintaining its own personality. The shops all range in size and shape but generally are small, run by one or two staff only and within minutes you feel like you’re part of the furniture. Furniture that’s been carefully selected, all recycled or made from something recycled – even the timber cladding on the exterior of one store was carefully (OK, not that carefully so I’ve been told), charred with a blow-torch to get the desired effect.
What is immediately apparent is the feeling like you’re in someone’s living room, albeit without the TV and recliner chairs, and yes, you would be forgiven for taking them as colourful hippies in a previous life, but the ambience is warm and inviting. Banter flows freely with a few of the regulars and as an English-man, I’m drawn to join in with complete strangers. I enjoy this comedic jousting and wouldn’t be exaggerating by saying I’d made new friends long before the end of my first coffee.
So without labouring the point (I feel like a bromance was on the horizon with Colin and his shop), I took a look at a couple of the other sites to see if they would live up to my now high, expectations; I wasn’t disappointed.
Of the two others I visited, both handed me the same warm sense of satisfying moments after stepping across the threshold. Immediately I prepared myself for engaging retort from the staff and well-founded mick-taking for my cross pollinated Pommie-come-Aussie accent, which I’d yet to formally resort to articulating one of them well enough to pass for an English-man again.
I look forward to future trips back to the Saloons, on my annual pilgrimage back to Blighty; it’s great to find gems like this challenging the status-quo of Starbucks, Costa and the like.
To Colin, the Goat and the Saloons…see you next time and keep up the great work.