Meet the family that built their business brick by brick in town’s oldest building
PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:24 14 September 2019
It is one of the oldest buildings in North Walsham, with previous lives as a weavers’ barn, coaching inn and carpet shop. Now, it has been reincarnated as a trendy café and bistro. Abigail Nicholson reports.
It was in 2014 that husband and wife team Rebecca and David Lysaght saw Shambles go up for sale, and plucked up the courage to head to the estate agents.
Mrs Lysaght, 53, said: "A friend of mine told me not to go near the building, but as soon as I stepped inside I fell in love with the place.
"I began having flashes of what I wanted it to look like and that's when we decided to buy it."
Today, the non-profit serves locally sourced, freshly-cooked food with a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern focus, and was recently named best newcomer in the Eat Norfolk Food and Drink Awards.
But the couple, who have lived in North Walsham for 17 years, did not initially realise how much work needed to be done to the Grade II listed property, on Market Street, until they had a professional come and survey it.
Mr Lysaght, who has a background in managing wine bars, said: "The building contains five different types of bricks and we had to search around Norfolk to find more of them so we could re-build parts of the property.
"We had the same problem with the roof, we had to look for around 1,800 tiles that matched the other ones already there.
"We used every bit of money we had to restore this building, along with some funding."
They applied for money through the EU's Agricultural Fund for Rural Development scheme.
Mrs Lysaght, who used to work as a GP in Mundesley, said: "The funding paid for our kitchen to be completed, Shambles would not be here today without the funding we received from Europe."
Mr Lysaght added: "That fund has now been closed since we voted to leave the European Union. It is such a shame that people in the same situation as we were in might not get the financial help they need."
After four years work, Shambles officially opened to the public on November 6, 2018.
Mrs Lysaght said: "We didn't advertise the opening because we wanted to have a quiet few days, but as soon as we opened the doors we ended up with a queue around the corner. It was such a shock.
"The idea behind the shop was to not tread on anyone's toes and to offer something different to the town.
"That is why we sell a different type of food, we do cocktails and we stay open later. People seem to be really enjoying it.
"We also employ a lot of young people and make sure they are paid above minimum wage and get proper training, this was something I knew that I wanted to do."
In the 10 months since they opened, the business has gone from strength to strength.
Mrs Lysaght said: "We are so proud of all the staff, they have worked so hard and shown so much dedication to starting up a new business. Their efforts have been recognised by this amazing award and everybody is just over the moon.
"We honestly didn't think we would win as we have only been open for 10 months and we are out in North Walsham. I was shocked when they called our name.
"We didn't even know that we had been nominated, our customers posed some lovely applications for us. We couldn't have done any of this without them."
In the near future, the owners are planning to further develop the building to provide an arts space on the first floor, this would be a multi-use creative and community space for the local area.
Shambles: Four key facts
- No chips here!
The owners quickly decided there would be no chips on the menu at Shambles.
Mrs Lysaght said: "I have a background as a GP, I wanted to make sure what we were offering was healthy and different. Even on our kids menu we don't have the typical chicken nuggets and chips."
- The name
When asked about why they called their café Shambles, Mrs Lysaght said: "We called the place The Shambles when we bought it because that's what it was. When we started thinking of what we were actually going to call, the name never budged. We didn't want to call it anything else."
After naming the business they found out the road next to the cafe used to be named The Shambles and a group named The Shambles used to meet in the village.
- Cheap and cheerful
When choosing the furniture for the café, the couple had to watch their money after the big refurbishment.
Mrs Lysaght said: "We got a lot of our furniture donated to us by the public or from charity shops. We were overwhelmed with how generous everybody was."
- Family owned
The pair's children also have parts to play in the business.
Two of them work in the kitchen while another two work in front of house.
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Mrs Lysaght said: "The hope is that they carry on with the business and keep it going."
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