Philippa James visits Thyme Deli in Horwich
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 July 2013
Philippa James meets a woman who followed her dream to open a cafe and deli
Like many of us, Amanda Biggs dreamed of running her own deli and the opportunity came when she left her job as a call centre manager to have a baby.
A small business would afford her more time and bring an end to the two-hour daily commute to Manchester. ‘I thought “how difficult can it be?” It just seemed like a good idea at the time,’ she laughs.
‘I think “baby brain” must have kicked in because I’d never worked so hard in my life. We had a child and I was doing 70 hours a week, spread over seven days. There seemed to be a crisis every day, but I learnt to deal with it. It’s a good job I like a challenge.’
She and husband, Alistair, who has his own business in Bolton, found premises in their home town of Horwich. The old Craven Heifer Hotel had been empty for a long time and they gave themselves three months to completely redecorate. ‘The business opened on blood, sweat and tears,’ adds Amanda.
That was ten years ago and they now has two children and Thyme, her deli and café, is still going strong. Initially, it was just going to be a deli but when she realised how much space she had, she decided to incorporate a small café.
She quickly established a great reputation for good food – including this month’s delicious recipe for rocky road cake - and started serving breakfasts and takeaway lunches for local businesses.
Amanda clearly enjoys dealing with people. ‘You know, when Peter Kay was at number one, we had a chap come in and ask for a coffee with a shot of Amarillo, not Amaretto. That’s what I love about this job, every day is different and you never know who will walk through the door. Often people come in when they are going through difficult times. I feel like a counsellor sometimes.
‘We’ve become part of a small, old-fashioned community; Horwich still has butchers, grocers and an ironmonger, with free, on-street parking.’
Looking at the shelves I could see many local producers represented, but Amanda said honey from the small Bolton team of Martin Ainsworth and son-in-law, Richard Knutson, is her best seller particularly at hay-fever time.
Amanda has made a positive move away from national companies to more locally based firms. ‘As companies get larger, a smaller business can become of less value to them, minimum deliveries get bigger and customer service can get worse. You become faceless to them,’ she adds.
So what’s next? Amanda showed me into the newer part of the shop, which has doubled its capacity, with a quiet area for coffee and contemplation, and a smart bake-ware section. She said people ask when is she opening another shop, but this is not in the plan. ‘When I opened I could see a clear path to to a certain point. I’m happy with the level that I’ve got to, I have a reliable, manageable team, and now I can even go for a holiday. I feel I’ve got the balance right; I can spend time with my family, be here at the business, but now I can walk away from it, too. Most importantly, I still enjoy it… I’m living my dream.’