A promise made to their mother and a glimpse into the historic past of Southgate helped shape the Claud W. Dennis coffee shop in Southgate.
Brothers Joseph and Franco Tzouvanni opened up in September 2014 having decided to replace the greasy spoon café in Chase Side with their own coffee shop, but were struggling to find the right theme.
Franco said: “We sat down and decided if we were going to do this, we weren’t just going to change the frontage and the counter, we wanted to create something we were going to be proud of and believe in, something new to the area.”
The brothers finally decided on a vintage theme for their coffee shop, but then made a fortuitous discovery. They found a hatch in the office ceiling, and when they looked inside, they found a multitude of items dating back to the 30s and 40s with the name ‘Claud W. Dennis’ on them.
A trip to the Dugdale Centre’s Local Studies archive revealed that Claud W. Dennis was a Southgate-based architect who developed the original building, that is now home to the coffee shop, and most of the rest of the area and was made a Freeman of the City of London for his contribution towards the war effort.
The findings of newspapers, documents, signage, posters, stained glass windows and even a door signed ‘Private’, which is believed to have been the door to Claud’s office, were not put to waste as the brothers quickly incorporated these into their vintage theme.
Joseph said: “We couldn’t believe what we had come across. We were so lucky to have found it and we were determined to incorporate it into the café and keep his memory alive. He was an important and influential man in the area and we’re pleased to be keeping his memory alive.”
Franco said: “We found some amazing material. The beauty of it is that our customers notice something different every time they come in and many discover documents dating back to the early 1900s with details of their own homes in which they now live.”
Their vision has paid off with the café getting the seal of approval from residents, shoppers and workers in Southgate and even the wife, daughter and granddaughter of Claud’s son Raymond, have also paid a visit and given it the thumbs up.
Joseph said: “People want variety and that’s what we give them, if people want to come and relax and feel a bit nostalgic, we’re happy to offer that atmosphere which is a little bit different. Other people just want to pop their head in and have a look at the history on the walls and that is great too.”
“We’ve been made to feel so welcome here, it’s a great place to do business in an area with such diversity and we want to be here forever. We are constantly trying to update and change things to keep it fresh.”
That commitment has seen the incorporation of the modern with the vintage – the café boasts iPads and a screen giving live bus and tube times for customers, with classic jazz and 30s music.
Franco said: “Wherever we can, we source locally and support the community and small businesses around us. Our window mural was painted by a local artist which we change every season and the cakes are homemade, freshly baked and delivered every morning by a local mother and daughter team.”
The café also has an alcohol licence so it can cater for the burgeoning evening trade in Southgate who can enjoy anything from a glass of wine to an Espresso Martini or Bailey’s hot chocolate. Also watch out for evening events at the venue including live jazz on a Saturday night.
The coffee shop even received Joseph and Franco’s mum’s seal of approval, who ran a café in Ayia Marina, Cyprus.
Joseph said: “We used to say to her ‘you should open up a coffee shop’ and it became a running joke as we knew she was too busy raising myself and my six siblings! She would reply and say ‘If you open one, I’ll help you!’
“Mum has been a big help, she gave us advice on how to run the business and above all, how to treat the customers. She loves it here and frequently visits with her grandchildren who love to play with our pet rabbits Claud and Claudette in the coffee shop’s rear garden.”
Claud W. Dennis
3 Chase Side
Weekdays 6.30am to 9.00pm
Saturday & Sunday 8.00am to 8.00pm