From the Square to the Yard – A Holywood Story...Ten years on
Before we start, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank Nando's, without whom the Yard would probably never have opened its doors.
Well, not just Nando's ... House of Fraser, the Apple Store; in fact any of the shops in Victoria Square.
In 2001 we were perfectly content where we were, running our busy Spar in what was then the Victoria Centre in Belfast.
But one day the men in the hard hats arrived, brandishing their blueprints, and made our decision for us – the whole area was being razed to the ground to make way for the new complex. We were too young and too energetic to retire, so that was that - a new challenge was required. But what?
We sat down and made a list of things we were passionate about. Jim had a passion for coffee and we both loved art, music, food and family. A good starting point. Right, what do we cross out and what do we leave on? Actually...why not do all of them?
Next came the location. After considering all the café hotspots, we had two locations shortlisted: the Lisburn Road and Holywood. Whilst BT9 was appealing, we knew Holywood (even in those dark times pre-McIlroy) was the place for us, and we went for it. Before long we had the opportunity to buy two dilapidated houses next to the new site, knock them down, and build a new apartment above the shop. So our new journey to work, rather than being fifteen minutes by car, was now fifteen seconds by elevator.
Choosing the name was one of the more enjoyable pieces of the jigsaw – due to the courtyard on the premises and the proximity of Harland and Wolff the word 'yard' just seemed to fit.
Getting Coffee Yard/Yard Gallery off the ground was very hard work, but that's what made it so satisfying. If you were able to order it out of a catalogue and have it delivered on the back of a lorry, it wouldn't be quite the same!
Coffee Yard is at the heart of the business, although we do try to give customers an ‘experience’ every time they visit – coffee, food, art and music integrated into one bespoke space.
From a handful of staff and a basic menu, the shop has continued to grow and evolve to this day. Over the years we have added numerous new seating areas, a roster of musicians to play over lunchtime, new menu items inspired by international dishes and of course more staff! Our ideas keep coming.
Yard Gallery has come on in leaps and bounds since it was first opened: from being a complement to the coffee shop it is now a bustling business in its own right.
Although we exhibit and sell work from artists all over the world, we like to support local artists.
One of the reasons for the Yard's success is its nature as a family business. We've had countless brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives working for us and they all feel like our extended family. We know many of our most regular customers by name and they do genuinely feel like part of the clan.
And of course there is our own family: many times you'll get all five members of the Beattie family working in the shop together at the same time, which is great.
Jim, known to customers as ‘the man who lives under the stairs’ (because that’s where you will find him), runs the gallery, and Nicki’s Dad, George, did most of our framing for many years.
Our eldest son, Chris, has run the coffee shop since 2007. His background is in architectural interior design which has proved very useful. He also possesses an inquisitive set of taste buds, so is responsible for the constant evolution of the menu.
Our second son, Stephen, was one of our original staff when we opened. His talent as a cabinet maker and woodworker soon ensured that he was soon out doing his own thing, but our need for new tables, counters and play areas means...well put it this way, his ‘Big Tree Joinery’ van is often parked outside!
Our youngest son, Richard, is profoundly deaf so we wanted to ensure that he was always guaranteed employment. Almost every year he backpacks for a few months and upon returning works in the coffee shop to save for his next adventure.
On 2nd December we will have been in business for a decade. We could not have done it without our great staff and our loyal customers, so thank you all. We would not be here without you.