The Home of Honest Coffee is a Kickstarter funded co-working, creative space and café which opened three weeks ago at the Blackfriars end of Chapel Street. Stumbling across the place a few days after it opened and keen to find out more, Laura Fell spoke to Mark Ashmore about this community interest company which is trying to revolutionise the way Manchester does coffee.
“There’s a freelancing
boom in the UK but
no cheap or free
space to work in…”
Laura: So, tell us a bit about yourself? What’s your background? Where did the inspiration come from?
Mark: “Tea and coffee powers us as creative types and at Future Artists, the parent company behind this venture, it has powered us for over six years. When we first started out we worked in Islington Mill, which was freezing cold in the winter, so we used to escape to the Cornerhouse for free wifi and warmth!
“There’s a freelancing boom in the UK but no cheap or free space to work in, so we founded Home of Honest Coffee with the thought of – ‘If I arrived in Manchester today to make it as a creative entrepreneur, where can I work for free?’ Starbucks is a no, as the staff are wise to you, the Cornerhouse is gone and Home is not quite right for laptop dwellers. So out of frustration, Home of Honest Coffee was born.”
In a booming Manchester city centre, what challenges have you faced setting up an independent coffee shop?
“Rent, business rates and access to finance have been our main challenge. Initially we wanted to set up on King St. and be a real alternative to the major chains but we needed over £100,000 a year in rent with a minimum 30% deposit. Each building needed a bespoke business plan which we didn’t have the capital to compete, so we found a perfect space on Chapel Street that’s very central and has loads of free street parking after 6pm.”
Why should coffee lovers come to Honest Coffee for their caffeine fix over the many other, also independent, coffee shops in Manchester?
“Our coffee is hand roasted by independent entrepreneur Shen of Passion Fruit Coffee Roastery. It’s really good stuff! Ethically sourced, seasonal and as fresh as it gets. It has an earthy quality with a caffeine kick – and all the profits go back to the community, so buy a coffee and help the kids, man! We are a community interest company and all our profits go back to the local community as creative grants, so if you use the space next year we could end up funding you! We also sell pints of tea and what you get is a proper northern welcome. If you come alone, you leave knowing someone. It’s the kind of place that feels like home, so if you love great coffee and love a northern sense of humour, think of us.”
What’s the best selling item on your menu?
“Our space is free and people are coming just to use the space for now. Our internet is super fast and that is top of the menu! In terms of food and drink, we do American–style sourdough toasties with three cheeses. These are da bomb, proper hangover food or something to lift you up when you get rained on. We keep the prices affordable, too. Our mains are under a fiver. We are a work space, we serve the workers.”
What does the future hold for Honest Coffee?
“We are very forward thinking. We are converting our basement into a farm to grow our own veg and salad in any season. We have a big basement so we are working with an agriculture co-op to grow our own food down there for sale in the shop. Being future thinkers, we also accept bitcoin and you can order anything from our menu via Deliveroo so you can even support your local community from the comfort of your home or office!”
With the image of epic cheese toasties imprinted in my mind, I joined the queue to try out the ‘Pig ‘n Cheese’ sourdough toasted sandwich.
Consisting of two slabs of roasted thick ham, a three cheese combo with chutney it certainly was, to quote Mark, ‘da bomb’. The ingredients were incredibly fresh, the portion was definitely enough and priced under a fiver, too. You can’t get much better than that.
Mark was right about everyone being friendly in here. I got chatting with assistant manager, Adam, and asked him if he enjoyed working there. “Definitely! It makes my job easier knowing that the money we’re putting into the till is worth taking. Every penny we take is being put back into the community.”
So yes, Honest Coffee, I do dig you. Very much.
You can book Honest Coffee for any event – birthdays, Christmas or a work thing. The space is yours, it’s your home. So come in and wish them luck.
77 Chapel St, Salford M3 5BZ