New food and alcohol options for vibrant Fletton favourite

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Owner Pete Mays has expanded the Coffee Hive offering to alcohol. Photo: John Baker

Founder Pete Mays started selling alcohol during a soft launch on Friday night, with free pizzas and burgers for regulars.

And the plan is to combine Pete's own cooking on some days, with external food venders selling their food - such as Caribbean, vegan, Thai and Indian - on others. 

On Mondays and Tuesdays there will be a lunch service of ciabattas and similar, closing at 5pm. On Wednesdays the Fenland Roaster will be serving in the evenings, while Pete is currently open to offers for some of the other slots for late-week and weekends.

The business, which already sells specialist coffee, hot and cold drinks and homemade cakes and pastries, has rebounded well from a coronavirus-forced closure earlier this year.

Perhaps Pete's varied background has helped in adapting to whatever life can throw at him - he was formerly a policeman in Luton, a quality control manager for Threshers, and a director at an electrical company - when he decided to put himself through catering courses to look towards fulfilling his long-term ambition of opening a coffee shop.

He started to take the chance to put his own ambition into reality, and initially he set up using his three-wheeler in the city centre, but the volume of competition meant the venture was "OK, but not great."

Pete's coffee is supplied by Jute in Market Harborough. Photo: John Baker

However earlier this year the current premises on Fletton Avenue came up, 100 metres away from where he was living in Stanground - and he acted quickly to take them on, with the offer of help from other local businesses nearby.

Pete said: "The Wonky Donkey have been really supportive - I thought they might see me as competition, but they are more focused on ales while I'll be selling mainstream lagers, and they regard this as something that could bring more people to this side of the city. In fact they even dropped in at one point and offered to help if I needed anything.

"D-Tech auto next door have also helped us out with parking for customers. And the council have been very good on this, filling out forms and getting things through for me very quickly."

There are also plenty of interesting back stories to the business and its surroundings.

The landlords of the premises live next door - one of them was actually born in the back room of the Coffee Hive, back when it was a butchers in the fifties.

Pete's coffee is supplied by Jute, a zero-waste company based in Market Harborough which builds beehives in conjunction with mental health charities every time 500kg of coffee is sold. The chocolate is supplied by The Cocoa Cave in Werrington, whose head chocolatier is a former Head of the Pastry Section in the RAF Culinary Arts Team.

The artwork on the walls is local, the hangers on the ceiling were made by the owner of Paper Rhino, and the fittings and furnishings were built by Pete himself, who found himself with more time on his hands during lockdown. 

A text service has been set up for customers' names and addresses in chronological order, for Covid-compliance, at the small venue. 

The chill out room at the back of the Coffee Hive. Photo: John Baker

"I took the building on on March 1, did it up with vague talk of Covid in the news, opened on March 21 as a takeaway, and then lockdown was on the 23rd.

"I spent the next few weeks with my daughter planting and baking and having fun with no responsibility, and then re-opened before Starbucks and Costa.

"I was open from 11-2 when people were doing their daily exercise - no-one could get proper coffee and everyone was working from home, so it actually worked out really well for me."

Pete's sister Kate and brother Richard also both work at the Coffee Hive, and he said of the area:  "Everyone seems to make use of small businesses and I just wish there were more here, such as a butcher's and greengrocer's.

"It's a nice area and I couldn't believe the amount of community support I received."

The venue originally opened days before lockdown (photo: Carly Beech)