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Sheringham coffee shop combats loss of trade with 'sinkhole special' rocky road ice-cream

PUBLISHED: 14:32 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:46 20 June 2019

Pungleperry's cafe, which has been hit by the closure of High Street for sinkhole repairs. 
Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Pungleperry's cafe, which has been hit by the closure of High Street for sinkhole repairs. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Archant

With their premises only accessible by walking almost the full length of the fencing surrounding the Sheringham sinkhole, Pungleperry's cafe owners Carol and Geoff Long are noticing a significant drop in trade, with sales on some days down almost 50pc.

But the couple, who have been shop owners in the town for more than 30 years, say they are keen to stay positive, and encourage people to support High Street businesses.

Carol and Geoff Long of Pungleperry's cafe, which has been hit by the closure of High Street for sinkhole repairs. 
Picture: KAREN BETHELLCarol and Geoff Long of Pungleperry's cafe, which has been hit by the closure of High Street for sinkhole repairs. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

"During the first week, the adrenaline of it all meant it was almost exciting in a way," Mrs Long said. "But now we are living with it, it is stressful and it can be a bit demoralising when you have to pay your staff and you're still cooking, but you don't have the customers."

After 10 years spent running a greengrocers they bought from well-known local family the Pigotts in 1989, the couple had planned to move abroad and open a continental-style cafe.

Business as usual: Carol Long serving a customer in Pungleperry's cafe.
Picture: KAREN BETHELLBusiness as usual: Carol Long serving a customer in Pungleperry's cafe. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

However, after struggling to find an estate agent willing to handle the sale of the High Street business, they decided to sell their house and bring European cafe culture to Sheringham, opening Pungleperry's in 1998.

"We had gone through a recession and with Sainsbury's opening and the threat of Tesco on the horizon, we just couldn't compete," Mrs Long explained.

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"We decided to invest the money from the sale of our house in a complete refit and Pungleperry's was really the first coffee shop of its kind in the town."

With Sheringham boasting just a handful of traditional-style cafes 20 years ago, the business was an overnight success, quickly becoming a popular haunt for locals and holidaymakers, who were attracted by the mix of speciality coffee and homemade cakes.

After a second refit in 2012, Mr and Mrs Long decided to reinvent the business and began making their own Italian recipe ice-cream, also serving up pancakes with toppings, toasties, ice-cream milkshakes and spectacular sundaes.

"By that time, we must have had more than 20 coffee shops opened in Sheringham, so we felt that, to stand out, we needed to do something different," Mrs Long explained.

With flavours ranging from cream tea, mango and Victoria sponge, to bakewell tart and Ferrero Rocher, the ice-cream was an instant hit, and now makes up around half of Pungleperry's business.

Although their trade has been hit by the sinkhole, Mr and Mrs Long say they have been impressed by the way the incident has been handled by Anglian Water and want to get the message out that they are still very much open for business - even dreaming up a new 'sinkhole special' rocky road ice-cream recipe.

"It's just one of those things, we are hoping it will be repaired by the school summer holidays, but we just have to make the most of it," Mrs Long said.

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