By Betsy Everett
It’s exactly a year since the Firebox café opened in Hawes on the site of the old railway station, and in that time owners Helen Pollard and Mike Allenby and staff have served no fewer than 8,055 cups of coffee, 3,919 teas, 4,098 cakes and 1,401 ice creams.
As they celebrated their first anniversary with a special cake made by resident chef, Emily Pickard of Aysgarth, they were also proud to report that they’ve had more than 30,000 visitors, representing nearly half of the 65,000 who come annually to the museum.
“They might come for a cup of tea and a scone and end up buying a bike,” said Helen, for alongside the café which was a new venture for them, the couple also run their successful bike business, Stage 1 Cycles, which they started in small premises in Askrigg nearly three years ago.
“As we grew the business we outgrew the space. The café was a whole new venture but seemed to us to be the perfect partner to our cycling business. A lot of cyclists use it as a refuelling stop, but we also benefit from the tourists who come to the town for the other attractions,” she added.
Stage 1 is, however, not just a cycle shop: opened to coincide with the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in the summer of 2014, offering sales, service and guided trails, it has expanded enormously in the year since the move to the national park authority’s Dales Countryside Museum.
With North Yorkshire Police and the county council Helen and Mike deliver training and road safety awareness programmes, and work closely with schools throughout the area.
They have also been approved to work on the programme at Catterick to better integrate civilian and military families through leisure activities, with a grant from the government’s Military Covenant Fund.
“The whole idea is to give civilians and military personnel the chance to enjoy the space they share. Over the past year we have done numerous cycling activities involving adults and children and it is something we’re looking forward to developing further,” said Helen.