From starting out on an inner city market stall to running her own fresh food empire, Katy Saide explains how her rebellious spirit kickstarted café culture in Manchester’s Levenshulme.
Ask Katy Saide, co-founder of café and bakery business Trove, why she thinks so many young entrepreneurs in the North West and Yorkshire are establishing their own food and drink brands, and she immediately describes their restless, radical spirit.
“I think it’s a bit of a rebellion, because they’re so fed up of not being able to get good food and having to rely on supermarkets that are doing things for the sake of making a profit,” she reflects.
“I think there comes a need, especially in the younger generations that are coming through, who are desperate for change.”
It is hard to find fresh, organic food amongst the bookies, pubs and takeaways that jostle for position on many British high streets. Seeing this scenario play out in their native Levenshulme, Saide and her husband Marcus decided to take matters into their own hands.
After learning how to make chutneys and jams from Katy’s aunt, the duo started selling their own homemade, organic produce on a stall at Levenshulme market, with the great tasting ingredients and quirky hand-drawn labels soon attracting attention.
Then, working on the market one day in 2011, Saide was presented with an offer she simply could not resist.
“A lady came up and said her mum was getting very old and couldn’t run her café anymore and it was just down the road. We lived in Levenshulme and it was a really handy location and really cheap,” she recalls.
“We did it up with £1,000 from a personal loan. We got given a really crappy coffee machine someone was giving away and we just managed with nothing. And that’s how the café started.”
Opened in 2012 on a shoestring budget, the vision for Trove was to bring homemade, organic and locally sourced produce to Levenshulme. Starting out as a team of three – Katy, Marcus and her brother-in-law – Trove has since expanded into a collective of talented artisans. There are now 36 people in the team, with the first additional member of staff joining three months after the café opened.
Everything sold in the café, from the sourdough bread to the chutneys, cakes and even the brown sauce, are all made by hand. The backbone of the Trove operation is the bakery, which makes a wide range of breads from wholemeal sourdough and bagels to focaccia and date and walnut bread. For the most part the flour used is organic and stoneground, with the bakers keeping their use of commercial yeast to a minimum.
Trove now supplies its bread to cafés and shops across Manchester and Cheshire including both Fig + Sparrow and North Tea Power in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, All the Shapes in Prestwich and The Garden in Hale.
People in Levenshulme embraced the fledgling café from day one, buying wholeheartedly into Trove’s fundamental belief in quality, homemade produce.
“Since we opened the Levenshulme community have been the most supportive people because they didn’t have anything like us. I don’t think we would have worked as a business in many other places. When we first opened some of the shelves weren’t even straight. They were so chuffed that we opened that no one really cared,” Saide laughs.
“There was nowhere in Manchester where you could buy proper sourdough at the time and we started getting a bit of a reputation. We had queues out the door and initially we could only seat 12-16 people.”
The popularity of the café persuaded Saide to embark on a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to raise £35,000, with the aim of doubling the size of the premises. Following the campaign the new-look space was unveiled in October last year.
This also meant Trove was able to extend into evenings, opening from 5pm-10pm Thursday to Saturday. While the day menu is mainly breakfasts and brunches, based around customer favourites like sourdough and fennel rye bread, in the evenings the focus is on seasonal small plates, natural wines, craft beers and house cocktails.
Saide explains that extending into an evening service has given the young people of Levenshulme another opportunity to enjoy fresh food in their local area.
“In Levenshulme it’s basically either takeaways or pubs, so lots of people who live here didn’t have anywhere to go in the evening. It’s now also becoming an area of young professionals and creatives because it’s quite cheap rent, so we were trying to give those younger people a place to go in the evening,” says Saide.
“So we got an alcohol licence and opened up the space. It’s not so much a restaurant as a place to eat good food.”
There are around nine dishes on the menu, all small sharing plates. As with the daytime selection, everything is made by the Trove team either at the café or in the bakery, using seasonal, organic and locally sourced ingredients. According to Saide, the autumn menu promises to be light, fresh and simple.
To complement the new-look café, Trove opened a small pod at Altrincham Market in April 2016, selling a selection of coffees, hot and cold drinks, bread, fresh cakes and pastries, as well as granola, seasonal jams and preserves.
Saide takes inspiration from other northern food and drink businesses such as restaurant and bar Friends of Ham and bustling city centre café Laynes Espresso, both of which are based in Leeds.
“It must be very hard in the city centre, but I think people like Grub [a street food events company that supports grassroots operators] who give spaces for small independents are brilliant,” Saide reflects. “I admire those guys for doing that and giving people the opportunity so they don’t have to get a shop and pay a lot of money for it without testing the water.”
Looking forward, the future for Trove is bright. Saide confirms she has “big plans” for expansion that will hopefully see Trove’s rebellious, independent spirit and artisan homemade treasures spread even further afield.