First look: Rhode Island Coffee returns to Altrincham with a new look – and a better location

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Rhode Island Coffee is back – and this time it’s confident it has the perfect blend.

A “trendier” store design, a brand new concept – and a location which is just yards from its former home in Grafton Mall, but a world away in terms of potential footfall.

For while its previous Altrincham base – the very first Rhode Island Coffee – won a dedicated following before its closure a couple of years ago, its never-knew-it-was-there location meant that it was never enough to sustain a profitable business.

Now, with lessons learned from its experience of opening a further five outlets – in Burnley, Bolton, Stockport, Oldham and Warrington with planning submitted for another in Wilmslow – founder Raj Ruia has plumped for a George Street site (the old o2 store) that couldn’t be more slap bang in the heart of the town.

And despite the new store – which officially opens this weekend and could even be open for a few hours tomorrow – opening in a part of town that’s become a magnet for to let signs and delapidated shop fronts, the team behind it is sure that they’ll be a success second time around.

Store manager Adam Fletcher told Altrincham Today: “I can’t wait for it to open – I’m a little bit apprehensive but I know it’s going to be a success because I’ve got complete faith in the brand and the company.”

Below: The new Rhode Island Coffee on George Street

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The store represents the first outing for Rhode Island’s new look, which Fletcher describes as “trendier and cooler”.

It certainly looks the part: authentic and comfortable, with nods towards the kind of touches usually found in a well-loved independent: a mounted collection of quirky mugs, a huge bookshelf to encourage a customer book exchange, coffee pot pendant lights and booth-style seating that Fletcher hopes will encourage a feeling of community.

As operations manager Dave Howarth, who together with design company AEW has overseen the new look from concept to delivery, says, “we’ve tried to strip it back a little. We pride ourselves on being a chain but looking like an independent, and that’s how it’s run”.

But while the look has been a key factor in the new Rhode Island, the old dedication to coffee and customer service remains.

“That’s where our main focus is,” says Fletcher, “and it’s where we’re different to other brands.”

Below: Store manager Adam Fletcher

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They have their own ethically sourced coffee blend, a continental dark roast made of 85% arabica and 15% robusta. “The robusta is the bean that gives it the caffeine kick and the nice taste,” explains Fletcher, “the arabica beans give it the caramelly taste.”

The Bluetooth-enhanced Cimbali coffee machine – which looks as if it was the price of a small, or even large, car – is testament to their intentions to retain the reputation they had at Grafton Mall.

And as for the service: “We want to say hello and goodbye to every customer – whenever anyone comes in we want to give them an invisible hug.”

Open from 8am until 5.30pm, Rhode Island has around 65 covers and will offer breakfasts and lunches as well as drinks and snacks.

As for the future, the company is already looking at more sites and is hoping to open at least a couple more outlets in the next year.

For now though, they’re focusing on Altrincham – and there will be many people happy to welcome them back.

Below: Inside the new Rhode Island Coffee on George Street

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