Owners of Horncastle’s independent coffee houses have vowed to meet the challenge of retail giants Costa Coffee head on and declared: ‘We’re ready for a battle!’
Costa aim to open a new outlet at the existing Achurch and Sons hardware store in the town’s Market Place.
Costa have applied to East Lindsey District Council for change of use.
Details in the application show they are planning a 90-seater facility over two floors with long opening hours - seven days a week.
There has been a mixed reaction with some people backing Costa and others against the plan.
There are fears some of Horncastle’s smaller outlets could close.
The News spoke to several businesses and while admitting they had concerns about Costa, they said they were determined to stay open.
Jane Reed, owner of the School House Coffee Bar said: “There are quite a few independents and I think our strength is we all offer something different.
“We do sell a lot of coffee but we are also known for the quality of our food which is all prepared and cooked on our premises.
“We are very busy at lunchtimes and I would expect our customers will be different to people who will go to Costa.”
Ms Reed said she hoped planning conditions would mean Costa could not under-cut existing outlets on a long-term basis
She added: “We are not afraid of competition, but it has to be fair.”
She also said that when it came to a final decision, she hoped planners would use the same criteria as previous applications for the town centre area.
Barrie Jenkinson, owner of the Bridge Coffee Shop. said he also relied on high quality homemade food, and doubted whether the Costa concept would even work.
He said: “I don’t think there is the footfall in the town. I’m sure it might appeal to a younger generation, but will Costa really draw more people in?”
Mr Jenkinson admitted he was surprised by some of the statements on social media which criticised current businesses.
He added: “I do open on a Sunday and trade is steady.
“Some businesses do open in the evenings. I’m sure more would, but there just aren’t the people around.
“As other owners are saying, we are different to Costa. Yes, they will be a threat and I’m sure they will take some of our business but I’m ready for the challenge. I’m sure everyone else is too.”
At The Old Stables, owners Andrew and Kate Griffen said they were initially surprised by the Costa application as the company usually targeted much bigger towns.
Andrew said: “They still have to get permission and while we are both in the same line of business, we are very different.
“They won’t offer a full cooked breakfast. They won’t support the local bakery. They won’t support local suppliers - everything we do.
“Coffee is a big part of our business but we believe quality and passion is our strength.
“We are part of the community and people come here because of that quality and passion - and friendly service.”
The couple stressed there was ‘nothing anyone could do’ to stop Costa.
Andrew added: “Your first reaction is let’s all get together and starting a petition. We’ve looked on line and thousands of people signed a petition against Costa in Totnes but it still happened.
“We have tried opening on a Sunday, but there just isn’t the demand.
“Longer opening hours? Again, there isn’t the demand. We have a young family and we need to spend time with them.”
Tanya Papworth owns a coffee house and cafe next door to Achurch.
She admitted she was ‘disappointed and concerned’ when she read about Costa’s plans.
She said: “I’ve poured everything into the business over the last couple of years and I’m not going to give that away.
“It’s not ideal having something like a Costa next door and I’ve got to admit when I first heard I went home and thought: ‘Oh no’.
“But then you talk to people and you realise we are different.
“We have our regulars. We have people who like the fact we are a small, traditional tea room.
“Are those people going to go to Costa when they can come here and enjoy a cake made that day?
“It (Costa) might appeal to younger people. Things like free WiFi but I haven’t the covers to offer that. I can’t afford someone to sit for a couple of hours with one cup of coffee.
“Longer hours and Sunday opening? Whether there’s the footfall for us all I don’t know.”
Mrs Papworth said she could diversify into selling more food, rather than coffee and other hot drinks.
Graham Midgley, who owns Pizza Uno on West Street, admitted Costa’s arrival would ‘put pressure’ on existing businesses.
He said: “People keep saying it will bring more people into town, but are people really going to come because there’s a Costa? I don’t think so.”
Mr Midgley said he already opened until 9pm and said he was not convinced there was demand for the range of hot drinks offered by Costa.
He said: “I do rely on coffee sales but I don’t often get asked for a soya latte with a double shot of caramel. We already offer free WiFi. We are busy in an evening but that’s because we offer popular takeaway food like pizzas. That’s our strength.”