Words by Simon Robertson
Leoni opened its doors Wednesday 13th November 1996 with no experience, with all of my life savings and in a recession! But the story began well before that date.
After college I was fortunate to ‘go travelling’ for 6 months that actually became four years. It was an immersion into other cultures, one in particular being the café culture.
Just about every other country I visited had, in one form or another, a very enviable café culture i.e. the opportunity to spend time in a café, taverna, piazza etc. a place where people would take time to interrupt their day to relax chat or just sit for a while and put the world on hold.
Not all venues seemed to get it right, but the ones that did were busy. The reasons for the busy places to me seemed very simple, relaxing atmosphere, genuine and polite conversation and the effort and pride in preparing and serving its products. Be it wine, food or coffee it had to be equal to or better than expectation of the customer.
The UK, generally speaking, did not entirely grasp the café culture I had witnessed abroad. So, back from my travels, planning my future and working in Malton, I noticed Inman’s butchers shop was available, ‘that would make a lovely coffee shop’ I thought and so made some enquiries. Those enquiries led to me opening Leoni that year. Although the recipe for creating a busy café for me seemed simple, achieving it proved and still proves hard but rewarding work.
Was it fate that Leoni The Coffee House came to be? I am not sure, but, just before I opened in 1996 my Mother informed me that my Great Great Grandfather, once upon a time, owned the shop as a butcher. He later sold this to the Inman family who operated as butchers, who later sold it to me. So after several generations it is back in the family! Fate!
Often cafes and bars like to display clever, intellectual or witty quotes, some years ago I made my attempt! My intention was not to be clever, intellectual or witty (just as well) but in a few words try to sum up my idea of my café culture;
Drinking coffee is not just about coffee, it’s about a moment.
Taking time to savour a coffee allows us to put the world on hold for a brief moment in our day.
It’s a statement on our lives, it says ‘we can’.
Thank you for spending that moment at Leoni.
Leoni has evolved as Malton has, still recognisable but operated with exactly the same ethos it started with.
For me, the most difficult evolution was the need to relinquish some responsibility and place trust in the others at Leoni. It became apparent years ago that as we got busier no one person could maintain our standards and it would require a team effort.
Recently Dom, my brother in law who has a background in catering and hospitality, partnered into the business which has allowed us to further develop the business, we now bake and create most of our products in house and better cope with the increasing operational demands.
I consider myself blessed with the staff at Leoni; they are all individual personalities, working together with professionalism, respect and a genuine charm. It makes me very proud to witness the relationship they have with customers and the pride they have in their work.
I am also very grateful for our friendly, loyal and supportive customers. Important for keeping Leoni busy but more importantly for making the working environment at Leoni so enjoyable.