Beloved Shropshire cafe on the market as couple look to step down after 23 years
The owners of a beloved Shropshire town centre coffee shop are hanging up their aprons after a happy 23 years behind the counter.
Lynwen and John Gott have run Berry's Coffee House in High Street, Church Stretton, since 2000, when they took over a unit that previously housed an antiques shop with a small cafe.
The couple are now looking forward to spending more time with family and travelling more after 23 years working in the town, which has coincided with numerous awards for their food.
John, now 77, said: "We decided we wanted to do something together before we keeled over.
"When we were considering what our USP would be, we decided to use local producers where possible. I think we were the first in south Shropshire to do that.
A long-standing worker in the railways, John described Lynwen as the "driving force" behind the coffee house, who previously worked as a dietician in London and wanted to provide health food for the business.
The couple lived in London before moving to St Albans, where John is originally from, and then relocating to the Shropshire market town in 1999.
Not only did they find it much closer to Lynwen's childhood home of Tywyn, near Barmouth, John added: "It's a very nice place to live."
Recalling how they found the building that became home to Berry's Coffee House, John said: "We found the place one lunchtime when we were having a long weekend in Ludlow.
"We told the estate agent (in Church Stretton) we were thinking of retiring here and setting up something, and asked what he thought prices would be like in a year or two.
"He said he didn't know, but said 'that one across the square is on the market'. He set up a viewing that lunchtime, we went round and decided to put an offer in."
Lynwen added: "It needed quite a bit of work, so we spent a year restoring it before we opened."
The building, which is now on the market for £700,000, is brimming with character features.
Originally built in 1702, it still plays home to a stunning Queen Anne staircase and period fireplaces.
The building has been used for hospitality from as early as 1898, when it was known as the 'Central Boarding House and Family Hotel'.
In 1945, it first became a cafe.
Two self-contained holiday apartments, staff accommodation, the cafe and an enclosed courtyard are all included in the sale.
John and Lynwyn are hoping the new owners will continue to grow and nurture the 300-year-old building and 100-year-old business.
John explained that the living area of the building was converted into "up-market B&Bs", with the original plan to open them in 2020 before Covid put a halt to things.
"They are all ready to go," he added. "They're just waiting for someone to have the energy to take them on."
Lynwyn added: "There's still lots to be done, we're just too long in the tooth for new ventures."
Looking back on the past 23 years, one of the things John described as "really satisfying" was seeing how the teenagers they have employed in part-time roles have grown and come out of their shells while working at Berry's.
"They have developed, coming to work in a place where they work with adults they don't know and develop self-confidence and get in interested in things they would not have been interested in otherwise," he said.
"We had one girl, really terrified when she started. She'd carry trays out, shaking, and we'd have someone behind her in case she was going to drop it
"By the time she left she was really confident and ready to take her place in society. That's incredibly satisfying to see."
Lynwyn added: "I think the thing we've benefitted most from is how many wonderful young people we've employed.
"We've made so many friends within the community, and it's been wonderful to see over the years the young Saturday girls come back grown up and with their babies."
John said he and Lynwen had totted up how many schoolchildren they've employed over the years, and estimated it was just over 100.
Despite being on the market and the couple planning to retire, Berry's Coffee House hasn't closed down.
"We're still going strong," John added. "Everyone hopes it will carry on as a coffee house."
More information about the property is available at Rightmove.