Joanna's Boutique Tearoom in Storrington
Published 4th October 2016
Before opening her new Tearoom in December 2015, Joanna Chadwick could visualise how it would look.
She knew that the décor would be based around a grey and pink stripes colour scheme; that her father’s Welsh rarebit would be on the Specials board; even that the staff would all wear matching white Converse trainers.
However, Joanna did not know what to call her fledgling business...
“I was speaking to my friend Claire, who ran a florists, and she told me that her biggest mistake was not naming the business after herself. “So I thought, that’s it then; Jo’s Café!”
After a sprinkle of refinement and a spoonful of marketing nous, Joanna’s Boutique Tearoom opened in the winter. Tucked away up a driveway, it’s barely visible to passing traffic on Storrington High Street, with only an A-board to notify people of its whereabouts.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that the tearoom has been a resounding success.
With two months to go until Joanna and long-term partner Luca Belenchia celebrate one year in business, regulars know they need to book ahead at the tearoom that’s been described – by one customer at least – as ‘a slice of The Savoy in Sussex.’
Carrot Cake Revolution
The idea for the business evolved - as so many do - as a result of Joanna’s previous catering experience.
Whilst running the front of house at Smith & Western restaurant in Horsham, Luca took some of Joanna’s carrot cake to work, to share with his colleagues. The cake was so well received that the restaurant owner asked Joanna if he could add it to his Desserts menu.
Joanna said: “As a result of that carrot cake, I was soon producing 250 desserts for Smith & Western restaurants every week. “I also make their home-made lime posset, chocolate brownie and caramel cheesecake, under the name ‘Made with Love’.
“Initially, I was baking at home, but now I have a strong team behind me and we do most of the baking at the Tearoom kitchen, starting at 4am, so the deliveries are made long before we open the doors. Gradually, demand grew and I started supplying more cafés and restaurants including Proper Cycling & Coffee in Hassocks.
“We also supplied kits for vintage tea parties. We have had to limit what we make, due to the success of the Tearoom, although we are still baking for businesses as far afield as Tunbridge Wells.
Creating a Destination
A successful home-based catering business might have been enough for some people, but it was a lifestyle decision that led to Joanna considering the idea for a tearoom. With Luca working long nights, and Jo baking early mornings, the couple wanted to open a café where they could work together.
They came close to taking on the former Christian Cafe and Bookshop in Horsham town, before Joanna’s head was turned by a small, charming unit in Storrington.
With no kitchen or bar, much work needed to be carried out; a job taken on with love and attention by Joanna’s father.
However, it was Joanna who envisaged the location’s potential; even if others needed convincing! I didn’t mind which town or village we were in, provided the setting was right,” she said.“I knew we would eventually become a ‘destination’ venue.
“Before we opened, I brought my friends and family here and some thought I was mad.
“I had no doubts though. I could picture people walking up the driveway and discovering this little hidden oasis, with the conservatory doors open in the summer and people sitting outside too.
“I could see people of all ages coming here; parents with children popping in for a treat after school, or elderly friends coming here for afternoon tea. I was 100% sure it would work. This is my passion; entertaining and looking after people, and Luca is no different. Everything about this location felt right.”
Storrington Proves the Right Choice
Having established a successful catering business, Joanna and Luca invested time and money into creating a beautiful tearoom, which now attracts customers far and wide.
For much of the summer, the tearoom has been fully booked, although outside tables are available for walk-in customers.
Joanna attributes such popularity to the detail of the décor, with distinctive pastel grey and pink striped wallpaper creating a certain elegance, especially when complemented with chandeliers, polished cake trays, vintage tea sets, freshly cut flowers and even a shiny bucket of Nyetimber sparkling wine perched on the marble worktop.
“For me, it’s all about eating with your eyes,” says Joanna. “Before customers even take their first bite, I want them to be enjoying themselves. Customers are always warmly greeted by Luca or one of the girls, and we keep the place immaculate. Because we make the effort, customers do too, with some even dressing up for their visit.
“As a result, the tearoom has become a destination venue, and I hope an asset to the village. Storrington is a lovely place and people like it as the parking is free and there are lovely antique shops and quirky stores, as well as Waitrose of course. I want everybody’s business to succeed here, because it will help mine too, so if more people are coming to Storrington, it will be better for us all.”
From Salmon to Bacon and Eggs
It may be the elegance of the tearoom that draws in customers. However, some of the credit must go to the beautifully presented food, including Joanna’s elaborately-decorated cupcakes, which you might even feel a little guilty for biting into!
“We have a bit of everything on the menu,” says Jayne Lovett, who works closely with Joanna and Luca. For breakfast, customers can enjoy anything from smoked salmon to croissants to a full English breakfast, with sausages from the local butcher’s. We also have healthy options, including granola and yoghurt.
“Our sandwiches and ciabatta are presented on a wooden serving board with salad garnish and home-made crisps, and we also offer jacket potatoes, salads and a Ploughman’s lunch.
“Naturally, we have a wide selection of cakes and savoury treats, including Joanna’s delicious sausage roll, which is something of a speciality. Afternoon tea is very popular, and many regulars love Joanna’s dad’s Welsh rarebit too. Along with the carrot cake, it’s probably our best-seller!
“We are licensed to serve alcoholic beverages, so some people like to come in and enjoy a glass of Champagne or Pimms in the summer.”
Florist Adds Some Extra Colour
Joanna’s Boutique Tearoom will soon be introducing a new menu. As a result of customer feedback, it’ll feature even more local produce including tomatoes from the Nutbourne Nursery, Sussex Charmer cheese from Rudgwick, and a new range of jams and chutneys made by Joanna and her team.
For 2017, Joanna and Luca may expand the brand with a second tearoom, perhaps in another Sussex town, but there’s also been a significant change at Storrington in recent months.
There is now a small florists, based in a wonderfully decorated shed adjacent to the tearoom.
Claire Cartwright, who previously ran a florist’s in the Horsham District, was seeking part-time work so asked her friend Joanna for waitressing shifts. Before long, Joanna started selling a small selection of flowers too, which proved so popular that her dad received another phone call. This time, he was asked to build a shed for flowers, which Claire now helps to run.
“The shed may be small, but it’s amazing how much you can fit in there,” says Joanna. “It looks fantastic, with the same pink and grey colour scheme, and even its own chandelier. It’s been a beautiful and popular addition to the business.
“Again, it’s only been successful because we have good people in place. I truly believe that, if you don’t have a great team, it’s going to be difficult to survive. What we have is a really lovely group of people who enjoy their work, which creates a nice atmosphere. I think people respond to that more than anything else.”
Visit the Tearoom at 34 High Street, Storrington, RH20 4DU. For more details about Catering and Events or to book a table call (01903) 742226. You can also visit Joanna’s Boutique Tearoom Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org
REPORT: BEN MORRIS
PICTURES: TOBY PHILLIPS