We are 9 years old today! What a journey it has been.
We opened our doors, or tried to, on 21 April 2012. The motor for the old industrial steel shutters seized up while we tried to open, leaving us stranded. Two local gentlemen took pity on our plight and gave up their day to kindly help us sell the sandwiches and pastries together with filter coffees from a makeshift lemonade stand that they cobbled together just beyond the shutter. Ducking under to refill kettles as and when needed.
The trials and tribulations we have faced over the years have been overcome with the same community spirit and togetherness which Oscar and Jimmy demonstrated that day. Time and again when things have got tough, local people, our friends and our family have stepped up and saved the day.
Looking back over nine years there have been so many highs for Matthews Yard. Without a doubt, one of them was a royal visit from HRH The Prince of Wales and Camilla, one year after the riots which devastated parts of Croydon and provided the original motivation to open Matthews Yard.
There have been too many amazing events to list them all, but it’s been an honour to have been chosen as the venue for several wedding receptions including those of Polly & Josh, Ryan & Rachel and Phoebe and Yeshua.
Hosting Bourbon and Blues and Rum & Reggae events, with constant tech support from John Bownas were amongst our favourite live music events, with performances from esteemed musicians like Sam Kelly, Tim Hain, Giles Headley, Errol Linton, Debbie Bond and many many more. Our new years eve prohibition party in 2013 was a night to remember, for those who didn’t overindulge in the complimentary moonshine! Then there was carols by candlelight, which we try to do every year and have had help from so many local people to put together, not least Katie Rose and Gill Manly.
Launching the first fully crowdfunded theatre in the UK was a major coup for us and came just at the right time for Croydon. It’s been a pleasure working with so many people in the local theatre scene off the back of it. We have had the honour of hosting hundreds of theatre performances and are especially proud to have been host for so many of the Croydonites festival shows and the Tempting Failure Festival. Huge thanks to Anna, Owen, Tom, Francesca, Dr TJB and so many more.
We are also proud to have hosted so many sell out comedy gigs for established and emerging artists alike, often punching above our weight and attracting talent who would probably sooner forget their Matthews Yard experience, but whose appearances left local audiences entertained and that little bit prouder of their home town for having attracted such talent as Richard Herring, Mark Thomas, Robin Ince, Sarah Millican, Josie Long, Bridget Christie, Jo Caulfield and many more to perform.
On the community groups front it’s been a great honour to have been the home for Croydon Radio when they launched. To have been the launch pad and regular host of Croydon Tech City and the Croydon Citizen. All projects which are sadly missed and provided so much to help kickstart Croydon’s renaissance. Tim, Tracey, Jonny, Nigel, James and Tom will always have a special place in our hearts. These groups and so many more helped us hone our community spirit to the point where today, we launch the Community Events Fund, which we are kickstarting with a £9,000 pot of funding for subsidised space for local community groups to host events with us in 2021.
On the accolades front, we rarely chase them and have always been satisfied with the praise and support of our customers. Being named as one of the top-ten workspaces in the UK back in 2013 by Crunch.co.uk was a welcome boost and going on to be featured as one of six case studies in a report on the future of work commissioned by then Mayor of London, sealed our fate as committed provider of affordable workspaces for creatives. Being runner-up for Independent Cultural Venue of the Year award in the Dot London awards in 2015 was amazing and being voted best Cultural Venue in Croydon by Time Out readers in 2018 was a shot in the arm for us, at just the right time.
After nine years it’s good to feel like we have finally found our niche on the food front. Long gone are the days of toasted flatbreads and salads and our all vegan kitchen is proving a runaway success, I daresay it wouldn’t have been the case if we tried that in Croydon in 2012. In between, we have had a range of fantastic food offerings, not least Burger&Beer who were based with us for several years and offered the best burgers Croydon did and will ever see. It was a pleasure working with Tom, Adam and Dan whose work ethic was resolute. We hope they are busy hatching plans for their return to Croydon’s foodie scene and know many of you feel the same way.
Our team has always been at the heart of our success and while it’s rare in the hospitality sector, in London especially, for people to stick around for years on end, we are proud that our housekeeper, Nicolla, has been with us since 2013 and that Marcin and other skilled craftsmen have helped turn our visions into reality with refurbishment works over the years. We are sorry to have seen so many great team members leave to relocate, or become Doctors or engineers, but understand it’s the nature of the business we are in and we are incredibly proud of them.
We have learned lots over the years as an employer and are proud that we are now in a position to pay every employee £11 an hour, more than the London living wage and amongst the best starting rates in the hospitality sector in Croydon. We are also incredibly proud of each and every member of the team we have now, all of whom go above and beyond to make sure our products and our customer experience are second to none. Long may it continue.
Many of you will have a fondest memory of Matthews Yard and we would love you to share them with us in the comments below, or by email. For me personally, it was finally caving into the demands of a particularly persistent customer, or would be customer, who used to waltz in almost daily asking if we sold coconut syrup yet. “No. We don’t sell syrups, we only sell proper coffee.” “ok, I’ll come back tomorrow”. After weeks, or maybe even months, my stubbornness melted away and we started to sell syrups. Coconut Latte girl as she had become known, went on to become my business partner, the mother of our three baby girls and the primary reason Matthews Yard is still going strong today.
This blog post can’t give credit to all the individuals and organisations who have played a part in making Matthews Yard what it is and what it has been over the years, but we are truly grateful to everyone for their support and input.
Here’s to the last 9 years.
As always, we love you Croydon.