Dudley's is a small, black-owned and operated business in Walthamstow, London. After a successful first year following their opening in March 2019, their plans to open a space for community events like yoga, meditation, workshops and live music in 2020 were halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
We spoke to founder James Stephenson about how social distancing has actually brought him and his cafe closer to the community, and his renewed perspective on wellbeing.
Tell us about Dudley’s
Dudley’s is a neighbourhood café in Walthamstow, East London. It is a space for the community where memories are made over hearty food and great coffee.
How has the coronavirus affected your business and what is your current situation?
Just shy of our first birthday we were forced to close due to a national lockdown. Since then it has been a constant battle to rethink and reshape the business to meet the changing needs due to coronavirus.
We are currently not allowed to open for dine-in guests and therefore operate as a takeaway only café.
When closed, the core of our business is disrupted which affects us terribly. We turned to take away only and launched a Click And Collect option online to help drive some traffic back our way. We also teamed up with Deliveroo, again to try and reach a wider audience.
Have there been any positive learnings or lessons?
We have learnt how to adapt and think on our feet. We have also seen a really positive response from the local community.
Do you feel more or less connected to your community?
We are definitely more connected to the community and I believe the community appreciates local businesses even more now.
And how has the pandemic impacted your mental health, both personally and related to your business?
In our personal lives, we have newfound care for our own wellbeing and mental health. We believe it’s time for a slower approach to life: one where we are more grateful and appreciative of what we have; one where we take a breath and pause every now and then. We have tried to bring these values back into the workplace to ensure that the quality of product, service and atmosphere is not compromised by the demand for speed which we have found is a fine balance, especially in London where everything is so fast-paced.
How have your customers reacted?
They are doing their best to support at every opportunity and for that, we are very grateful!
If you had to pick one, which dish and drink from your menu would you have in unlimited supply during lockdown and why?
A flat white with some sweetcorn fritters, a side of halloumi and a side of bacon (if you eat meat that is). If its a cheat day, definitely the Dogfather (brioche bun, sausage patty, bacon, folded egg, spring onions and the Dogfather sauce)! Sorry, that's two.
How have you helped people to recreate Dudley's experience at home?
Locals have been able to enjoy Dudley's food at home either through Deliveroo or Click And Collect. Alongside a banging brunch, we've put together some serious playlists on the Dudley’s Spotify for people to vibe to while at home.
What would you say to other small businesses at the moment?
We got this!
Which local businesses would you like to give a special mention to?
The whole London coffee scene.
What does Dudley’s symbolise for you now?
Perseverance, patience, love and hope.
Over the holiday period, Dudley’s coffee shop’s new windows were smashed with bricks causing considerable damage. You can donate to Dudley’s fundraiser here to contribute to the cost of repairs and improvement to other areas of the cafe.