Bicycles and caffeine fuel local businesses

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BIG Maggy’s was originally set up in 2010 by Tony Moffa, with Richard Tanguy joining a few years later. It was created as a coffee shop that was bike-orientated. Over the years, the business became more bike-oriented and, with a change in staff, they experienced problems. ‘We found out that it’s very difficult to staff a café,’ says Mr Tanguy, ‘so we decided to outsource it.’ They chose to partner with local café brand, Mange Tout.

The Big Maggy’s side of the business is all about bikes and cycling. Not only do they offer servicing for bikes, but they also sell bikes and accessories.

The innovative part of the business is the commuter subscription service, where people cycle in to work, leave their bike and cycling clothes with Big Maggy’s – where they can also have a shower – and then go to work. When they return at the end of the day to cycle home, their clothes are clean and dry.

Mr Tanguy believes it is a growing business. ‘Cycling hasn’t fully reached its potential, the cycling market is huge in Jersey. Compared to five years ago, there are a lot more people riding to work, but if you stand at West Park and look at the queue of traffic, we are still nowhere in terms of the States objectives.’

Mr Moffa agrees, adding: ‘Ninety per cent of St Helier businesses and buildings still don’t have facilities for their staff to store their bikes and suits and take a shower. It’s not just about riding to work, it’s about the facilities when you get there.’

Big Maggy’s only has space for eight commuter subscriptions. Not only are these full but they also have a waiting list. ‘If we had 50 spaces we’d sell 50. If we had 100, we’d sell 100 but that’s not the core of the business,’ says Mr Tanguy.

Selling and advising on bikes is their mainstay but for those who might be new to cycling, having the coffee shop atmosphere helps, explains Mange Tout owner Darren Amy. ‘If you can come in and grab your Mange Tout coffee and come over and talk to one of these guys and say “I was thinking of…”, it’s just a much softer way to introduce yourself than having to open the door into a very bike-focused place. You get a really good crossover between our two businesses.’

Mange Tout has been serving coffees, pastries and lunchtime food in Jersey for over 20 years. Started by Andrew and Abbie Hosegood, it has been in Mr Amy’s hands for the past two years, after he helped to run the coffee shops in Sand Street, Colomberie, New Street and Conway Street for four years before that.

Mr Amy says he had reached a stage in the business where he had to make some decisions about the next few years. ‘Everyone can see that Colomberie is getting quieter, and opening a new shop in the Finance Centre instead meant we could strengthen our business rather than stretching and expanding it further than it perhaps needed to go. The guys that we had working for us in Colomberie could move to the new store, and it gives a little bit more security for ten years to come, rather than just thinking of right now.’

Mr Amy doesn’t have confidence in the Colomberie area over the next few years and says more and more businesses are leaving, which he believes will lead to it becoming increasingly residential. ‘If everyone is moving from that end of town to this end of town, it’s just natural for us to follow them. While that [residential] is suited to some businesses it’s not suited to ours because in a residential area, I would have to trade for the first hour in the morning but not throughout the day.’

The coffee-shop trade is a volume business which needs footfall and Mr Amy sees a clear migration towards the Finance Centre end of town, but there is a lot of competition in the coffee-shop world with both strong local and international brands present in the Island. This doesn’t put Mr Amy off. In fact, he sees that as a driver to innovate.

‘The reason there are more places opening is because there is more business out there,’ he said. ‘That is why I’m doing something like this. You have to move forward, you have to keep up with the times and with other coffee shops opening, it keeps you looking for new opportunities. A lot of shops are standalone and they do what they do. This is just a bit different, so I think it’s growing our brand.’

Big Maggy’s was the initial driver for the move to IFC5. Their lease had expired and so they had started talking to the Jersey Development Corporation which offered them IFC5. Rental costs were a big consideration, but with two businesses uniting, that risk could be shared.

It worked well, which they put down to the fact they are local people working together and communicating.

‘The ethos of being a local business and doing it yourself really showed through when we were opening up,’ says Mr Amy. ‘We had a couple of weeks when we were very busy trying to meet our opening time. Everybody just came together. It was such a great atmosphere coming in and getting it ready. I think in those two weeks we made a bond between our two businesses that really set us up ready to open. If it had just been a case of getting lawyers signing documents and waiting for the opening day, we would have opened with a very different attitude.’

The business is doing well and certainly has a different feel from the other coffee shops around town.

‘A lot of people comment that it is like coming into a shop in a big city,’ says Mr Tanguy, ‘which is what we wanted to create because, after all, we should be competing with big cities. We are in the middle of a finance centre. We should be able to offer what a city does well.’

Mr Amy agrees, adding: ‘A lot of the time these bigger sites are taken over by the bigger brands and other people don’t get a chance. So it’s nice to be able to come together and have strength in numbers. It gave us a good chance to open up a really exciting shop.’

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