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Behind the scenes at Chapter One Cafe in Sheffield

Tempting brunch offerings at Chapter One in Sheffield  (c) New Chapter
Tempting brunch offerings at Chapter One in Sheffield (c) New Chapter

Ever dream of quitting the 9 to 5 and opening a cafe? Maxine Gordon meets the Sheffield couple who have done just that.

Police officer-turned-cafe-owner Matt Lucas has noticed a big change since switching the beat for barista duties.

'As a police officer, I was engaging with people - but not in a happy way. I was either bringing them bad news or dealing with people who didn't want to see me. The flip side now is at the coffee shop people are pleased to see me and smile and chat!'

Great British Life: Jo and Matt Lucas - the owners of Chapter One in Sheffield (c) New ChapterJo and Matt Lucas - the owners of Chapter One in Sheffield (c) New Chapter

Matt and his wife Jo - both aged 49 and parents to Charlie, 24, and Daisy, 21, - have just opened Chapter One, a smart cafe specialising in breakfast, brunch and lunch in the Walkley area of Sheffield.

It's a world away from their previous careers - Jo had been a civil servant - which they ditched to follow their dreams of owning a coffee shop.

Their story starts a short ten minute walk away in Weston Park - in the west of the city - where they launched Chapter One in a mobile horse box, serving hot drinks and home-made cakes to park regulars, many of whom were people using the nearby hospitals, including one for children and another for cancer patients.

Great British Life: Menu favourites at Chapter One in Sheffield (c) New ChapterMenu favourites at Chapter One in Sheffield (c) New Chapter

Indeed, it was while Jo's mum Vicki was being treated for cancer that the couple first developed the idea for a coffee stop in Weston Park.

Jo said: 'Weston Park Cancer Centre is just down the road from the park and when my mum as ill - we lost her in 2016 - we used to go to the park for a little bit of respite. We would walk around the park and think: 'we could just do with a coffee'. Opening in the park was a legacy to my mum.'

Matt added: 'It is a really beautiful park - it was just missing somewhere to sit and enjoy the peace and tranquility.'

Losing Jo's mum spurred them on.

Great British Life: Chapter One in Barber Road, Sheffield (c) New ChapterChapter One in Barber Road, Sheffield (c) New Chapter

Matt said: 'We always enjoyed visiting independent coffee shops and said it would be something we would love to do. The catalyst was Jo's mum who was only 60 when she was diagnosed with cancer. She was so young and life is too short. If you wait for life to happen, you can be waiting a long time. We thought: 'let's just do it' and took a leap of faith'.

Their initial idea was to open a cafe in the park, in converted shipping containers. They submitted a scheme to local planners and in the meantime launched their pop-up in the revamped horsebox, which they christened Hugo.

The mobile unit opened in 2021, selling a range of cakes with coffee supplied from local roasters Smith Street. The couple gave up their jobs to concentrate on the new business and focus on their end goal of opening a full cafe in the park.

Great British Life: Chapter One breakfast bagel (c) New ChapterChapter One breakfast bagel (c) New Chapter

Life with Hugo was not without its challenges. The couple could not leave the horse box overnight in the park so had to tow it home after every shift - in all weathers and up and down the hills of Sheffield.

Matt said: 'We had to invest in a pick-up truck to pull Hugo and all the equipment - it weighed two tonnes. It had previously been a Rice trailer for two horses so was not a tiny little thing. It was three metres long with the tow arm.'

When the weather was bad, or snow or sleet hit Sheffield, they were unable to get Hugo into place - so could not trade.

Great British Life: Chapter One which has opened in Commonside, Sheffield (c) New ChapterChapter One which has opened in Commonside, Sheffield (c) New Chapter

'It was one of the reasons we wanted a permanent location,' explained Matt.

But their dreams of opening a cafe in Weston Park were dashed when planners decided not to back their scheme in March 2022.

'So we started looking for something else - somewhere local because we had built up such a good customer base at the park,' said Matt.

That search led them to Walkley and a former beautician and hairdressers in an enviable plot in Barber Road.

It was a great find, said Jo. 'It was a corner spot, with two rooms, and the corner room had huge windows which let in lots of natural light.'

Great British Life: Avo on toast, Chapter One style (c) New ChapterAvo on toast, Chapter One style (c) New Chapter

Picking up keys in April 2023, they spent the next four months renovating the place, turning it into the light, bright modern brunch cafe it is today.

'We've gone for a high-end classy look,' said Matt. 'We've picked quality fittings and fixtures so people feel like it is a nice place. We've kept our branding and carried on with the blue and gold theme - navy blue with gold type face throughout the shop.'

Chapter One has 25 covers with space for four outside. The couple employ a team of 11.

It is open daily; 8am-4pm Monday to Friday; 9am to 4pm Saturday, and 9am to 3pm on Sunday.

'We do breakfast, lunch and brunch - simple food, prepared well and made to look very appealing,' summed up Matt. 'All food is prepared fresh to order and we source most of it from local independent traders.'

Great British Life: Selection of cakes and treats on display in Chapter One in Sheffield (c) New ChapterSelection of cakes and treats on display in Chapter One in Sheffield (c) New Chapter

Menu highlights include the usual suspects of a full English breakfast and a veggie alternative as well as a range of egg dishes, and smashed avocado. But there are some surprises too such as the creamy mushrooms with garlic, tarragon, pesto and truffle oil on toasted artisan bread. Specials include the breakfast bagel burger and a choice of sandwiches such as the Peruvian pulled chicken sandwich with jalapeno sauce on fresh focaccia. Fresh soups and salads are available too. There is also a kids' menu.

As a local independent business, the couple are committed to using local suppliers where they can. Their bread is from popular Sheffield artisan bakers Depot; coffee from Smith Street Coffee Roasters and tea from the Birdhouse Tea Company. All cakes and pastries are made locally too.

Matt said: 'We think it is important independent businesses look after each other - it is a difficult market to be in.'

At Chapter One the 'Keep it local' motto extends beyond food and drink.

Matt explained: 'Even our music is all people from Sheffield.' Everything from Seventies acts such as Def Leppard and Joe Cocker through to Human League, ABC, Pulp, Reverend and the Makers, and the Arctic Monkeys is on a playlist.

Great British Life: Pastries for breakfast at Chapter One (c) New ChapterPastries for breakfast at Chapter One (c) New Chapter

'We also include up and coming bands from Sheffield,' added Matt. 'We have had local bands tell us they are on Spotify and we then add them to our playlist. We have had some customers ask: 'who's that?', so we are happy to publicise new bands.'

Looking ahead, the menu at Chapter One will change seasonally and the couple are looking forward to using the space in the evenings too.

Jo said: 'We are looking to run the occasional supper club and also do private-hire events to make best use of the space.

'Also the area we are in is heavily populated by students so we could put on other events to appeal to them such as quiz nights and pudding clubs.'

Sounds like the beginnings of a second chapter for the enterprising duo.

Follow on Instagram @chapteronesheffield



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