A long standing cafe boss reckons Doncaster town centre is on the up – and that is why she has spent a six figure sum transforming her business.
Bev Georgiou has been running a cafe on the same site at Printing Office Street since the early 1980s, and has just re-launched her business for the second time.
Mrs Georgiou and husband first opened up as TJ’s in 1983, around the time of the miners strike. In 1996, the couple re-launched the business as a self service cafe, the Four Seasons, which was a high street fixture for 22 years.
Now, she has closed The Four Seasons and re-opened on the site as The Glass Strawberry.
The interior is unrecognisable from the Four Seasons, with a modern look taking over from the previous self-service cafe look.
The old menu has been torn up and replaced by dishes includes pasta, pizzas, and vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
She said: “We had been ready for a refurbishment since about 2010 – but there was a time when we wanted to see if the high street would survive before we committed. It was touch and go for a few years.
“The Angel pub shut. The Walkabout shut for a few years, and Waterdale did not seem to be in a good way. We wanted to see if things would turn round.
“Then little things started happening, like the Cast theatre opening, and they announced the plans for the new museum. They are building a new cinema and college at Waterdale. Then the final thing was when we found out they were opening Flannels. I gave the go-ahead to the builders here on the day the builders moved into Flannels.
“If they were investing in this street, that was good enough for me.”
“I think there are green shoots happening in the town. I think people are coming back into the town centre. I think we’re on our way again. And if you drive around Lakeside and see all the businesses around there it’s phenomenal.
“I think the town is moving in the right direction, and that there are lot of young people here who want to support independent businesses, who want to help small businesses, and look after the planet. They know which businesses the feel pay their taxes and which they feel don’t.
“We have had customers saying saying they have done all their Christmas shopping in Doncaster.”
When Mr and Mrs Georgiou first went into business in Doncaster in 1983, she says TJ’s was based on selling it cheap and piling it high. She now describes TJ’s as a pie shop, but it had queues out of the doors, and survived through the miners’ strike, when some firms were going to the wall.
She completely changed the menus when she opened the Four Seasons, a self-service cafe where full English breakfasts were popular.
Now it is all change again
As the Glass Strawberry, a fashionable new interior is unrecognisable as the previous venue.
So too is the menu, which Mrs Georgiou says has ditched everything that it was selling as the Four Seasons.
She said: “There is no link whatsoever – this is a totally new concept.
“There is nothing left of the old menu. We’ve created a new one for today’s society. Now, 80 per cent of the menu is gluten free. It has vegan food, and pasta, pizza and wraps. We used to do pies – they have gone.
“We still have a breakfast menu, with things like eggs florentine, eggs benedict, and scrambled egg with smoked salmon.
“We do a massive range of cakes, and we’re starting afternoon tea in a few weeks time.”
The Glass Strawberry is her first business to have a licence to sell alcohol, but she has not yet started selling it. Prosecco is due to be an option with the afternoon teas.
She says she has had a good reaction since opening in November. She said lunch times have always been busy, but special events like mums’ morning, and the afternoon teas were planned to fill the gaps in the mornings and afternoons.
“We have had new customers who say we are just what Doncaster needs,” she said. “Some of the old customers are sad to see things go off the old menu.
“But you have to cater for all types of people. When we first went into business, only about 0.5 per cent of people were vegetarian. Now it is quite common. If people come as a group, there will be vegetarians and people who want gluten free food. We deal with this the right way, with separate work stations in the kitchen for vegetarian and gluten-free.”
Permission is already in place to being in tables on on the pavement in front of the shop, and to add a canopy, with those set to be introduced in the spring.
“People are coming into the town centre,” said Mrs Georgiou. “There are some great businesses here. We need more people to take a chance and set up here, and more and more people will.
“As the saying goes, ‘if you build it, they will come’”