It’s something we’d always talk about – Baltzersen’s on coffee and independent businesses in Harrogate

Oct 10, 2018

At a time when the big brands of yore are closing their doors and the UK high street seems devoid of life, one corner of the market is enjoying something of an expansion. The UK is in the midst of a coffee revolution.

Independent coffee shops are sprouting up across the nation. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the picturesque Yorkshire town of Harrogate, gateway to the sweeping expanse of the Dales.

The Scandinavian-inspired Baltzersen’s has been a mainstay of the Harrogate high street for some years now, with the iconic cinnamon buns and relaxed atmosphere a favourite with locals and visitors alike. We sat down with Baltzersen’s founder and head honcho Paul, to discuss the story behind the popular coffee shop and just how to go about running an independent business during a time in which the face of the high street is changing.

In the beginning…

Growing up with a Norwegian grandma; Scandinavian cuisine has always been a big part of Paul’s childhood. It was this upbringing and exposure to a Scandic lifestyle that influenced his decision to open a café; though the idea of Baltzersen’s has had a long gestation that stretches back to family dinners as a youngster.

“It’s something we’d always talk about around the dinner table. We’d look at all this great food we were eating and say ‘wouldn’t it be great if there was a café where you could enjoy it’? Baltzersen’s is that” he explains.

 

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We sit with Paul outside his café on a September morning, the weather decidedly Scandinavian in temperature. Behind, the café is already bustling with customers enjoying an early morning pit stop. The faint smell of roasted beans and fresh bakes hangs in the air.

Baltzersen’s is clearly a popular spot; the door is forever swinging open and closed just behind us. He puts the success down to a number of key features “we stitch it all together; the food, the drinks, the experience, the service. We offer something a little different that you can’t really get anywhere else”.

Standing up to the big boys

These days, that “little difference” can go a long way. There is plenty of competition in the coffee shop industry. Not only from the proliferation of rival independents in recent years, ‘homemade’ coffee shops still come up against the global brands that dominate the market.

 

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The size of Starbucks and Costa doesn’t dissuade Paul, however, “We’re much nimbler, we can change things. I think it’s about being able to change, to be personal, that service element – I always say that good service can rescue bad food and bad drink, but it doesn’t work the other way around”. That isn’t to say that Baltzersen’s suffers from bad food; the fresh cinnamon buns piled high in the window have our mouths watering.

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Setting up shop in Harrogate

Moving on to the wider business scene in Harrogate, we were keen to understand Paul’s thoughts on building an independent business in the Yorkshire town. Harrogate currently lacks a Business Improvement District, though one is in the pipeline. As such, the spa town is missing a way to market the town’s many independent enterprises as a collective.

“I think Harrogate has a way to go. We haven’t really had a central point of contact for promoting Harrogate. I think with the advent of the Business Improvement District…that Harrogate BID will become the central point of contact”. The Harrogate BID is up for potential election in November.

Paul adds “What we do have is a fantastic arts sector, they curate amazing events for the town, we’ve got a really good facility in the Convention Centre. So, we’ve got a lot going for us, it’s just a case of tying all those things together, which I think would make a great offer for residents and visitors alike”.

 

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Paul has high hopes for the future, both for Baltzersen’s and Harrogate’s business community as a whole. “I think the support a potential BID could give new businesses, and existing businesses could be really important.”

As for Baltzersen’s, he lets us in on his plans, “We’re six years old now. We’ve got a couple of exciting projects that should allow us to grow over the next few years, hopefully adding another site or two. We’ll see how things go!” he laughs.

Photo: Shutterstock 

 

 

 

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