Dainty china tea sets and vintage tearoom décor, enveloped by the aroma of fresh, decadent pastries – Betty Blythe Café strikes at the heart of quintessential British culture. It’s one of my favourite local venues in which to take shelter from the rain, with a warm cinnamon bun and well-brewed cup of earl grey to help me keep calm and carry on.
Businesses of Convenience vs. Businesses of Soul
The atmosphere at Betty Blythe reminds me of an extract from a talk by one of my idols, Brandon Truaxe the founder of Deciem, who mentioned that there are two types of businesses: those of convenience and those of soul. A business of convenience is your local Starbucks, you know what to expect at every single one of their chains and as a result of their consistent ability to replicate and deliver the basics, they can now be located in every convenient spot around town.
A business of soul on the other hand, is the local coffee brewer who launched their café because it was a personal passion that they needed to share. The interiors are decorated with distinctive artefacts and the company culture stems from the founder’s character. Occasionally, a business of soul may become a business of convenience, but you cannot simply buy soul, it’s innate.
The welcome you receive upon stepping over the threshold, makes it easy to guess in which of the two categories Betty Blythe’s Vintage Tea Rooms belongs. Unique to this enterprise, there is even a dressing up area downstairs, where guests have the option to enjoy luxury, custom tea parties in suitably retro attire.
The best thing about such institutions is that they become a hub of friendly faces for the local community in an increasingly physically fragmented, yet digitally connected modern world. Lulu of Betty Blythe café, runs a ‘Spirit of the Community’ group online, whereby events for locals are regularly held at the tea house.
I could not pass up the opportunity to be involved in our own Winter Tea Party and Women’s networking evening in late November this year. Despite its size, the venue easily doubles up as a distinctive event space after dark. A frosted table covered in decadent treats, many of which were handcrafted by the newly launched SugarBox events, was the centrepiece amongst a backdrop of glittering fairy lights and racks of quaint, tea jamboree fittings.
It was stirring to meet such a wide variety of local women in everything from dog whispering to film production, fitness and nonprofit organisations. I was beguiled by a representative of Petit Miracles – a charity based in Shepherds Bush that assists would-be entrepreneurs with getting started, I had no idea such a thing existed. The organisation is the first of its kind and acts as a business incubator and retail hub, supporting small businesses and encouraging them to grow. They also offer free event space and meeting room hire to their protégés. The over-arching aim of the charity as a whole, is to reduce unemployment primarily through the provision of training and work experience, especially within in the realms of craft, retail and entrepreneurship.
It was the perfect way to celebrate the shift into the Christmas season. As the days grow shorter and darker, the nights become longer and brighter, filled with flickering flames, fanciful bakes, warming beverages and communal laughter thanks to institutions like Betty Blythe. It just wouldn’t be quite the same in your local Starbucks.