Monday, 21 June 2021

Cafe set to expand with deli move to old bank next door

A CAFE and delicatessen in Watlington could expand.

Robin Holmes-Smith, who runs The Granary in High Street, has applied to open at the former Barclays Bank next door.

He bought the building after the bank closed in March last year and has now applied to South Oxfordshire District Council for permission for a change of use to retail on the ground floor with offices on the first floor.

If he is successful, the deli would move from its current premises, which are rented, allowing the café to almost double its seating capacity to more than 50 as well as creating three new jobs.

Mr Holmes-Smith, who has run the business with his wife Francesca for 15 years, said: “This is probably the only chance we’ll ever get to do this.

“There’s no other building in Watlington that we could do what we want to do so we thought, ‘we’ll give it a go’.”

The existing café has 28 seats and the couple hope to add another 26 as well as sofas. Mr Holmes-Smith said: “There are days of the week when we don’t have enough table space and there are other days where people would probably prefer to spread out, for example, if there’s a whole bunch of noisy people and somebody else wants some quiet.

“It should give people a little more choice of where to sit. Hopefully it will have a nicer ambience too — there will be sofas and different kinds of window seats.

“We’re very excited about this, more so than when we moved here, when we didn’t have a lot of choice because we didn’t own this building — we have fitted into the space that there is.

“Because we own the building next door, it just means we can put our own touch on it.”

Mr Robin Holmes-Smith said he expected the business to grow with the town. “Watlington has got to grow, Benson’s already growing and the surrounding villages are growing a tiny bit and we have to look 10 to 20 years hence,” he said.

“Whatever happens, the future is still going to be in our hands.

“If they put a bypass in we have to make sure we show and tell people it’s a nice place to come to.

“I think people in Watlington are pleased that somebody is investing in the future of the high street, which is a hell of a risk today because there must be safer things to do!

“We think it will work and be good for the town and hopefully the town will think the same and it will gel. With some good work and some good luck, it should work.”

Mr Holmes-Smith said the new deli might stock a range of craft beers and increase its wine range but this would depend on space.

The first floor offices would be rented out.

The Granary Delicatessen first opened in 1985 as a cheese shop and delicatessen at another unit in High Street. Mr and Mrs Holmes-Smith took over the business in 2002 and moved to their current premises in 2013, expanding the deli and opening the café.

The deli is more than three times the size of the original and now stocks about 120 cheeses as well as olives, patés, meats and wine.

Dr Melanie Smans, South Oxfordshire District Council’s economic development team leader, is supporting the application.

She says: “Watlington is home to a number of niche retailers and this provision offers further opportunity to provide a retail need for local residents and/or visitors.

“It would also bring a long-term vacant and prominent high street property back into use.

“The application indicates the change of use will result in the creation of three new jobs. Job creation is important for the economic prosperity of the district.”

The district council will make a decision by July 4.

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