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Catching Up With One of Northern Ireland's Best Coffee Bars for Cyclists: TRAIT Coffee

Posted on March 1, 2019 @ 12:13 PM in Cycling

Mark opened his coffee bar TRAIT Coffee in November 2017 and it has since become a hit with cyclists and walkers alike – it was even named in Cool FM’s Top 11 Coffee Bars in Northern Ireland. We caught up with Mark to have a chat about the first whirlwind year at TRAITCoffee and what his plans are for the future.

 

Hi Mark, congrats on the unbelievable success of TRAIT Coffee and thanks for speaking with us today. You opened the coffee bar in November 2017 – what was the inspiration behind TRAIT Coffee?

For the last 10 years I have craved my own business. To be in charge of my own destiny is the main appeal. Creating a strong brand and a unique space was key, alongside bringing a service that wasn't already available in Comber was vital for growth. Once I had set my heart on opening a speciality coffee shop in my hometown, the journey commenced.

I recall the nights where I doodled lists of potential business names – I would judge how the potential names looked, the meaning and most importantly a name not already in use. My research was extensive but very interesting. I also spent time studying existing coffee shops, staff interaction with customers, interior design, food offerings and social media presence.  I am a big fan of hard work and believe the more you put in the bigger the reward.

 

 

What was the process of opening the coffee bar like (hiring staff, finding the perfect venue, getting the art wall)?

Firstly, I had to identify a premises. A property small in stature but one that would financially allow me to be creative. 33 Castle Street, Comber stood out for many reasons: its proximity to The Comber Greenway and main Belfast to Ards Peninsula cycle route, a huge gable wall to mark its identity, space to the rear for future expansion and lastly my hunch, that it 'felt right’. That word 'hunch’ has been the basis of many of my decisions.

I wanted TRAIT Coffee to be seen as humble and modest from the roadside yet a unique and charming interior space. I designed all the interior space myself and felt I would achieve a greater sense of community spirit from sourcing locally handcrafted furniture and craftspersons. I also believe the design of the wall seating in a U shape is not only quirky but adds further to the feel of a social space. The definition of the word TRAIT is a unique characteristic; hence my gable wall shows a large bespoke thumbprint, as your thumbprint makes you unique. A massive credit to Dean from Visual Waste who helped with brainstorming logo ideas and bringing the thumbprint to life. It certainly was an eventful day on Castle Street when Dean climbed his ladder holding his spray paint. Business neighbours and local residents guessing what the image was going to be.

I work a few shifts in TRAIT as well as working in a full-time job elsewhere. This current arrangement is something I am hoping will change with greater traction and expansion in the future. Overall, I feel with experience I'm getting better on this front.

How has the first year been at TRAIT Coffee?

Our first year in terms of identity and presence was a success. With experience, I am hopeful we can make more friends and push on in terms of expansion. We have also evolved with time and based on the wants of our customers we are now offering freshly prepared toasties on our menu.

The Comber Greenway and Ards Peninsula are very popular with cyclists and walkers – what makes this area such an attractive place for a café like TRAIT Coffee?

I see TRAIT Coffee as a ‘pitstop’ or ‘midpoint’ where you can refuel when exploring the interesting landmarks and breath-taking scenic areas the wonderful Peninsula has to offer.

Credit: Dave Kane

Do you get out on the bike yourself around Northern Ireland?

Occasionally my family and I would cycle the Comber Greenway. My smallest is 4 so the journey is usually stop/start!

What would be the go-to treat for a cyclist at TRAIT Coffee?

Either flapjacks, pear and ginger bread or Thumbprint Cookies.

I’m getting hungry here – is it lunch time yet? Do you find more cycling clubs or individuals coming in?

We’re seeing more groups of cyclists attending since opening, half of which are not affiliated to any clubs but are out for a leisurely cycle. On Sunday past we had Manic Cycling Club from Newtownabbey, and good friends of TRAIT would be James Curry and Matthew Teggart who cycle professionally for Ireland.

What are TRAIT Coffee’s plans for 2019?

My plan for 2019 is to build a cycle shelter to the rear of the shop. This shelter will also house a few quirky bikes available to hire and is somewhere you can have your bicycle maintained whilst visiting TRAIT and nearby shops.

 

Quickfire Round:

What’s the best tasty-treat you’ve made? Banana Bread

Favourite coffee? Cappuccino

Favourite film? The Founder

Favourite outdoor place in Northern Ireland? Delmont Country Park, the views over the Peninsula are incredible.

Thanks for chatting to us Mark!

TRAIT Coffee is open Tuesday to Friday 10am-4pm | Saturday 9am-4pm and Sunday 10am-4pm, and is located at 33 Castle Street, Comber – follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Call in on your next cycle!

 

Dominic Lyttle
Dominic Lyttle  Assistant Marketing Officer

Dominic has recently joined the ORNI team following completion of a MSc in Marketing from Queen’s University Belfast.

In his spare time, Dominic enjoys trekking, travelling to new and exciting places, and playing basketball, alongside drinking far too much coffee!

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