Warm welcome for Hot Soul
While the pandemic saw an explosion of converted horseboxes selling takeaway coffees at beauty spots, a local business woman has taken the concept to the next level.
The entrance to an oil supplier's depot is unlikely location for an outdoor cafe, and there are no scenic treks nearby to draw families or groups of walkers, yet Kate Fagan is happy - and not a little relieved - to report that trade has been brisk for her 'Hot Soul' coffee trailer business in Tierlahood.
The pristine trailer radiates an air of professionalism, and Kate has landscaped the immediate surrounds, to create a distinct, and surprisingly relaxing retreat from the busy main Cavan to Bailieborough road. Fencing provides welcome shelter for the petite space with some nice touches, like draping lights, flower pots and an enormous Connect Four game to keep kids amused, while a clutch of picnic seats encourage customers to take the weight off their feet.
A native of Dundalk, the mother of two was eager to resume her passion for working within the hospitality sector, but it wasn't until late last year that she settled on what form that plan would take.
“I had looked at a few venues around Cavan and maybe something bigger like a restaurant but, with having young kids, it wasn't the right time.
“I had been looking at different opportunities and I had seen people doing this horsebox coffee idea, and this particular one popped up,” says Kate who previously managed restaurants in Dundalk and Drogheda.
Beautifully converted, and never before used as a cafe, Kate got it at a very attractive price.
“I went to look at it and said, 'Yeah, I'll buy it', and I bought it not knowing where I would put it or what I would do,” she says laughing at her on-the-hoof decision-making.
Having put the cart before the horse, so to speak, she then approached the owners of Stradone Oil who were very supportive when it came to a site.
“I knew Sean [Smith] was really into stuff for the local area, so I had a chat with him and he was totally on board and was really good to me. He said to take a chunk of space and work away, and that's what we did,” she says. The site has proven a Godsend as the trailer is visible to passing traffic, there's plenty of parking space, and crucially it is very close to her home.
After sourcing a second hand coffee machine, and other essentials, Kate and her husband undertook much of the hard graft themselves in terms of landscaping.
“They say, when you have a plan, it takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you would think – it's not cheap,” she says.
March 14 was settled on as D-Day.
“I wanted to give it its best possible start and put the best foot forward. So coming into Spring, and new beginnings, I thought it was a nice time, and hopefully we will have a nice busy summer, and get lots of people to know that we're here, and the hope would be that will help us through the winter time.”
She readily admits the prospect of opening the business was a scary one.
“Yeah of course. You are putting yourself out there. You are scared that it's not gong to work, that nobody's going to come, and that you are going to stand here for the first week on your own. But that hasn't been the case and everybody's been so lovely and complementary.
“The people in the area, who live around us – they love it! I have people who come in every day for their coffee, it's really nice. And I have got to meet loads of people who live around here that I have never met before even though I've been here for six years nearly, so it's been lovely that way too.”
The Hot Soul trailer features an oven, which allows her to rustle up a range of home made meals – pizzas, foccacia, and paninis, and she also stocks an ever-changing variety of home baked treats. Since it is more than simply a coffee-stop, she stays open until 7pm Monday to Friday.
“The pizzas have been going really well, I'm getting great feedback on them,” she says.
However it's the coffee that will see the first time customers pull over to Hot Soul. She stocks a brand called Marley, which the Celt can attest to as a very smooth, satisfying brew. It's all a source of encouragement that she's onto something good here.
“I'm proud of it, I like it and I'm really enjoying it,” Kate justifiably says.