Behind the Scenes with Muse Music & Love Cafe
Muse Music & Love Cafe seems like a typical small cafe, nestled in the Yorkshire market town of Hebden Bridge. But through the doors you will find a love of vinyl records, great coffee and a passion for the vegan cause.
Lisa catches up with owners Lou and Paul Blacklock to discover the realities of running your own vegan café.
So, are you a vegan cafe that sells records or a record shop that sells vegan food?!
We are both! Paul has always been into records and I have always been passionate about food, so when an existing record shop and café business came up for sale, it seemed like the perfect thing for us. Whenever we visit a new town, Paul always finds out where the record shops are and I hunt down the vegan places. So we wanted to create a place that food and vinyl lovers could enjoy together.
You have a lot of ‘familiar’ food on your menu such as cheese toasties and (no) tuna sandwiches. Was it important to create a menu that wouldn’t scare off non-vegans?
We just wanted to create a menu that everyone could enjoy and we would never judge anyone for not being vegan. Anyone can come in our café and sometimes people are surprised when they realise they’re in an all-vegan place. The most common situation is when someone orders a skinny latte but they have never tried coffee with oat milk before. If this unsettles them, we always say ‘try it and if you don’t like it, don’t pay for it’. We’ve never had anyone not pay for it! In fact we’ve had a lot of converts who are surprised how much they liked it.
A lot of people dream about opening up a small cafe of their own. What’s been the biggest challenge?
Don’t talk to us about challenges! Two weeks after we got the keys to the business the first lockdown was announced. We had a lot of work to do because the premises needed renovating after it flooded in February 2020 but when the lockdown happened the renovation work got cancelled. Signing the paperwork to opening our doors ended up taking 5 long and unexpected months.
Just as the world started to get back on its feet we had the opportunity to move to bigger, better premises – but then the ‘cost of living crisis’ hit. So we’ve seen a fair few challenges, and yes it is hard work, but we would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking about opening their own space. It’s all about looking for the positives, if it’s your passion then you can do it. At the end of each day we always chat about what our best bits were, the good things that happened and the interesting people we met.
"Don’t talk to us about challenges! Two weeks after we got the keys to the business the first lockdown was announced."
You also open up in the evenings as a licenced music venue for independent artists. Is it important to diversify as a cafe in a small village?
To be a small independent music venue was always part of our plan because there is a strong musical tradition in the valley and several live music venues. We wanted to provide space for small intimate gigs where magical things can happen, with all the door money going straight to the artists who are sometimes just starting out. The evening events help strengthen the business and give us the opportunity to do something we love that people can enjoy with us. We have a film night booked, an album launch and other pop-ups planned. We believe we have a very special place that we want to make good use of.
How often do you find yourself having conversations with your non-vegan customers about veganism?
This happens on a fairly regular basis and it’s usually the customer that starts the conversation. We like to normalise being vegan so we emphasise how easy it is with there being so much choice these days. A lot of conversations seem to be about cheese, so we give people advice that are thinking of giving it up. Every tiny step we help someone make towards veganism is a positive step in the right direction.
If someone has the dream of opening up their own cafe, what would your top piece of advice be?
Go for it. Be prepared for hard work and make sure you find the joy in it!
Learn more about Muse Music & Love Cafe at their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/musemusicandlovecafe
Lisa Fox says:
Running any kind of venue is hard work, but Lou and Paul have shown that if you make it your mission to find the joy in it, then the hard work can be more than worth it.
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