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Cafe 1809, Hildenborough, Kent

Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes is well known for her impressive achievements in the 800 and 1500 metre middle distance events.

Recently Dame Kelly has diversified into the leisure and hospitality industry opening Café 1809 in Hildenborough, Kent in December 2014 realising a long held ambition of owning her own cafe.

Premier Hospitality caught up with the Olympic athlete to find out more about her journey so far. Dame Kelly commented:

“I’ve lived in Hildenborough all my life and worked in the old building, which used to be a newsagent, when I was younger. When I was kid and worked here as a newspaper girl, I said to the owner ‘I’ll buy this place one day!’

“Then I did athletics for 15 years and along the way bought the shop from the previous owner. The place was derelict so it took a lot of liaising with the planning officers; I wanted to build something that would bring the community together and so finally when work started in September 2013 I took over the project management of the demolition of the original structure.”

Dame Kelly worked with John Barnett from J B Design on the design of the venue as she had always had a clear idea of what she wanted to create. John Barnett was happy to be involved with the project:

“It has been a wonderful project to be involved with; it has been an opportunity to design a format that is totally unique and clearly this format is popular as, since opening, it has been full all of the time. The venue has filled a need; offering a stylish, contemporary and unique multi functional community hub, which is not a big chain from the high street.”

Dame Kelly, athlete-turned-entrepreneur, was keen for the venue to be more than just a coffee shop and following its completion the space now comprises a shop, events area, café and a beauty room.

Works began on site at the end of 2013 to convert the former newsagents and residential units into Dame Kelly’s multifunctional community hub. A double height extension to the side of the property was constructed and the interior of the structure was fitted out to suit the local needs.

No main contractor was used, instead local contractors, designers, local builders, artisans and trades people helped to revamp the building. John Barnett from J B Design, lead designer on the project, commented:

“I read about Kelly’s project, which is close to my studio, and gave her a call and after having a chat with her became involved. The brief was to create a community hub in this rural, out of town area; Kelly wanted to inject a dash of city flair into a rural environment.

“Café 1809 is therefore about reinventing the community; for Kelly it was about paying back the community who have helped her during her achievements and creating a social space so that everyone could share in that success.”

When works began the building was a warren of existing rooms, as well as an old cottage and so the team brought the space back to its shell. The onsite team reinvented the space as well as constructing an extension to house the café and creating spaces for offices, a beauty therapy room, pavilion seating areas, a function room and meeting room.

The venue’s design boasts an urban-country feel, using modern materials in an inventive, commercial manner. When customers enter the venue they are greeted by the bar which boasts an array of freshly prepared drinks, snacks and meals. Café 1809 comprises metalwork, steel mesh, exposed beams and timber to create a modern, approachable environment.

Throughout the space many references to Dame Kelly’s achievement feature namely the number 1809; which refers to the number of the shirt Kelly wore when she won her gold medal. JB Design designed the venues identity, logo and signage focusing on Kelly’s achievements.

Dame Kelly Holmes unveiled Café 1809 on the 5th December last year and since then has been overrun with customers. She added:

“Seeing the venue up and running is very fulfilling and is a proud moment for me. It has been so full on project managing the scheme, so when I opened in December I didn’t know what the interest would be like – but it’s been so busy. I’ve been there almost every day, doing the interview process and training and it has been really lovely to see it up being so well received.”

Wonderwall Studios

Wonderwall Studios is a creative design studio specialising in the design and production of beautiful reclaimed wood panelling systems for use on walls and surfaces. The company has been in operation since 2010 and was worked on an array of high profile projects, including schemes for Nandos, Prezzo, Hard Rock Café, Chimichanga, Blue Inc and Delta Airlines.

Working on Café 1809, Wonderwall Studios supplied a modular hardwood wall panel system to deliver the architect’s brief of creating an impactful but relaxing dining area for the café.

Sammy Box of Wonderwall Studios, said:

“We were delighted to learn we would be working with Dame Kelly, but it got even better when it was revealed to us that it was a project earmarked for Hildenborough. Dame Kelly speaks so passionately about her home, so we knew that she was looking to create something very special for her local community.

“We work very closely with community projects ourselves in those areas where we do our wood reclamation, and the passion people have for the things which are local to them never ceases to inspire us in our own designs.”

Sammy added:

“At Wonderwall Studios we pride ourselves in our authenticity. Everything we do is done in-house, from the sourcing of wood to the creation of designs with local craftsmen who know those materials best. It is a holistic approach to design, characterised by complete involvement with our materials and people at every stage of the creative process. We work for the love of the wall-and it shows!”

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