Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is closing. It hasn’t closed yet, but it is closing. That’s the essence of this blog post and I want you to remember that it’s as simple as that. A whole pile of things have closed or are threatened with closure and there are rumours swirling about, much like the current weather. But with Kings Heath’s Cherry Reds, it’s a lot simpler.
Jen, the owner of Cherry Reds, asked to have a chat with me about this and honestly I thought it was going to be a therapy session because I bloody love Cherry Reds. I love the Kings Heath Cherry Reds even though it took over the greasy spoon cafe I had an affinity towards because it served me sausage and bacon sandwiches when I first moved to Kings Heath.
“People asked how I got started, and the simple answer is with experience and savings from running pubs for M&B, as well as help from friends and family” says Jen. And this comes through, Cherry Reds is the sort of low-key place that caters for a multitude of dietary requirements without having fifty-thousand menus to certify this; vegan cake sits alongside cake with lashings of buttercream and you can order a vegan full English just as easily as you can a meaty one. No one judges you for ordering tea and cake on a Friday night, and there’s a great selection of beers without being all holier-than-thou about its craft beer credentials. The staff are consistently lovely, from letting your pregnant friend queue-jump a sudden influx of people because you were saving the table, through to explaining the ins and outs of Pokemon Go.
It might well be their Twitter handle, but it’s true. I do love Cherry Reds. But more importantly, so does Jen; “A few years back I was having a mini-meltdown, probably about some unconstructive negative review online, and one of the team tried to comfort me by saying that I take these things too personally. It occurred to me that she was right, I do take it personally.”
So why is Cherry Reds in Kings Heath closing? Rumours have been going around for a while that it was going to turn into this, that and the other. Or with seemingly a new coffee shop opening in Kings Heath daily, has Jen had enough? Nope, it’s a lot simpler than that…it’s about putting down roots and making the painful decision to let something you love go, so it can become better. “Last year while still trying to find the money for a deposit on a house, I asked myself whether I had the energy and funds to invest in Kings Heath too, which seven years on needs a new lease of life. I feel a new owner could do it better and allow me to move on to other projects.”
“I never really intended to do Cherrys on a bigger scale, but the momentum kicked in and when thing started clicking into place and I thought I’d see how much I could borrow. John Bright St opened in September 2014, again things were tight, a few months in a row I was late paying people which was definitely the lowest point, but they stuck by me, which I’ll never forget” admits Jen. “I may have done it the hard way, but the whole point was to be my own boss, make my own mistakes and trust my own long game, so an investor was out of the question for me.”
“Growth for the sake of growth, take more money, spend less every year. Kudos to those people who have built big businesses from nothing, but it’s not a road I think ends well for staff or customer experience.” And whilst so many other places might bang on about customer experience, people are at the heart of Cherry Reds – both the customers and the staff. Jen is thankful for both; “I have been fortunate enough to work with and serve some awesome humans over the last seven years, as well as working alongside great businesses made up of more great humans. I thank them all for truly caring, helping me build my little business and making the tough times worth getting through.”
Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is closing because Jen wants it to become more, to flourish. And we’re not losing Cherry Reds entirely; “John Bright St Cherrys will continue to bring a little bit of the Kings Heath spirit into the city centre.” Jen tells me. And for that I’m thankful, because in a sea of chain coffee shops, pre-ripped wallpaper and overly complicated menus, there still sits a corner of the city where Cherry Reds stands out as the kind of place which welcomes everyone, without any fuss. And there’s nothing more Brummie than that.
Cherry Reds in Kings Heath is currently up for sale and will close when a new buyer is found – which means you still have time to go. I’ll keep you updated.