A new coffee and cycle shop concept is to open at Stamford House in Altrincham in November.
Velo Espresso is the brainchild of cycling and coffee fanatic Neil Lee, a former sales manager for Piaggio scooters who gave up his job last summer to fulfil his long-held dream up setting up a business himself.
The new double unit – the nearest units to Moss Lane bridge – will combine a cycle shop in the basement with a cycling-themed coffee shop above.
Having signed the paperwork three to four months ago, Lee picked up the keys on Friday and building work on the site will begin tomorrow. He hopes to launch on his 50th birthday, on November 1.
“Bluntly, if I wasn’t going to do it now, I would never do it,” he told Altrincham Today. “The easiest way was to leave the job that I’d lost my love for and turn my passion for cycling and coffee into a business.
“It was originally called Cycle Manchester, but I didn’t want it just focused on cycling and we wanted to bring in our love for coffee, so we came up with Velo Espresso.
“I want it to be known for quality coffee. We don’t want to alienate people who will just want to go for a coffee – we want mum and dad with a pushchair to come in as well.
“We’re trying to go for an artisan, rustic, French theme, but there’ll be a cycling slant – cycling photos on the wall, and we’re going to burn chain rings into the table tops.” He’ll also be reinstalling some of the old Stamford House back into the unit.
Below: the company logo, and the vacant units set to be readied for Velo Espresso
In an unusual twist, Lee has partnered with his ex-wife Marie, a sales manager for a pharmaceuticals company.
“We parted nine years ago on good terms,” he added. “She read the business plan, she felt that for once in my life I wasn’t talking a lot of rubbish, and she thought that if we stick to the business plan it should be a nice business.”
They won’t be falling over each other in the new shop either – she’ll work there at weekends and at night, and their daughter will help out after school. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of Marie,” he said. They’re recruiting for a trained barista now.
Although Lee has been working on setting up the business since leaving Piaggio in August, he has been pleasantly surprised by the reception his idea has had from potential investors and funding organisations alike.
Having been originally put in touch with a government organisation called Blue Orchid by the job centre, he worked up a business plan from one page to 30. Indeed, it was so compelling that three different companies offered funding and Virgin wanted to put it forward for a business plan of the year competition.
In the end, Business Finance Solutions provided funding of £19,000 – the largest amount it has ever given a business in Manchester. “I thought it would be hardest part of all,” added Lee. “But they believed in us and liked us, it was amazing.”
As word of the Velo Espresso concept has spread, so potential investors have come forward (“people have been throwing money at us”, added Lee) and Lee praised the “great support” he has had from Altrincham Forward.
As well as coffee, they’re considering applying to Trafford Council for an alcohol licence to try and attract some of the commuter crowd who want a chilled craft beer after work. They’re also hoping to install a cycle workshop in a building around the back of Stamford House.
Lee is convinced the new location will work. Restored to its former glory by a £5.5m refurbishment last year, Velo Espresso is the fourth confirmed tenant in Stamford House after Sports4Supplements, Vintage Angel and Hummingbird Flowers (the latter two in a single unit). To demonstrate his commitment to his new venture, Lee will even be moving from his home in Urmston to one of the apartments directly above the shop.
Conveniently, Velo Espresso is also next door to the dedicated cycle hub at the new interchange, and there are ambitions for one of the routes involved in Velocity 2025, Transport for Greater Manchester’s scheme to improve cycling in the city, to terminate in Altrincham.
“I’ve stood outside at seven in the morning and at six at night and I’ve seen the amount of people that walk past,” added Lee. “If they want a milky, dull Costa coffee they can go and get one, but if they want one properly and lovingly made, they should come to us.
“Any business is a gamble, but as Richard Branson says, if you have a dream, go for it.”