Vintage is big industry in the UK right now, but it takes a special sort of entrepreneur to spot the trend and produce something altogether different with the theme. While we’re spoiled for vintage fashion in our fair city, this venture offers something unlike no other place in Leeds.
Just Grand! Vintage Tearooms is hard to miss as you wander through the Grand Arcade. Gorgeous, (a little bit) girly and definitely grand, its warm glow invites you to press your nose against the misty window and peer inside. Once you step inside the door you’re sure to be delighted.
We spoke to founder Janine Martin about her idea to bring a beautiful tearoom to the heart of Leeds, the menu that brings customers from far and wide and the priorities that made this a ‘now or never’ decision…
Who are you and how did you get here?
We’re Just Grand! Vintage Tearooms in the Grand Arcade on New Briggate.
After some life changing moments occurred within the space of a few months – losing my younger cousin and then best friend Fiona to cancer, and after working for 25+years working my way up the ladder to a job that was becoming a little ‘repetitive’ – I took stock of what was important to me and what I was good at. People told me I had a natural flair and attention to detail with party planning so after notice of redundancy came through the time had come to make the change.
I decided to pool my experience of planning and organising events and by using the £1000 Fiona had left me in her will ‘Fun-Key Functions’ was born. I started off by collecting and hiring out beautiful vintage china and tableware from family members and then from vintage suppliers throughout the UK, and before I knew it I had enough for over 100 people (I am constantly on the look out for new pieces to add to my collection.) I started showcasing my pieces at local charity events and ironically the money Fiona had left in her will was then going back into worthwhile causes and local charities.
I then met a gentlemen called Anthony Blackburn who was passionate about small businesses getting their foot on the ladder and encouraged me to take a small space to see if a Vintage tearoom would take off in Leeds. After a lot of hard work with help from family and friends on 7 August 2013 Just Grand! Vintage Tearooms opened its doors for the first time in the Grand Arcade, Leeds.
Once Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom was established we tried to protect the name by registering the Trademark only to find ourselves facing a lengthy and stressful legal battle with one of the largest food and pub chains in the country. They had a huge legal team behind them, with professional London attorneys (which was quite threatening at times) and barristers. Despite this we stuck to our beliefs and went ahead with the trademark application, fought it ourselves because the professional legal cost was inhibitive and something the business could not afford. We eventually got the trademark registered. It was a classic ‘David & Goliath’ story… and we’ve now moved on.
What can people expect when they visit you?
Visiting Just Grand! is an experience, not just somewhere to pop in for a cup of tea. Step back in time, listen to music from days goneby, enjoy one of our many specialist loose leaf blended tea choices and choose from a selection of homemade cakes and unusual scone flavours.
What’s your favourite dish that you sell?
My favourite dish has got to be cake – I particularly like the Chocolate Guinness Cake, it never fails to come out light and fluffy and surprisingly doesn’t taste anything like Guinness.
My Mum’s gluten free Lemon Drizzle is our most popular one by far – not just for gluten intolerant people either!
What makes Leeds so awesome?
Being a small family independent business I have learnt the importance to support and help the small business community so we go out of our way to find such eateries/shops/entertainment. There’s an abundance of talent in the small businesses in Leeds if you look carefully enough around you.
Getting to know your hosts of the various establishments is very important too. By just asking them about their business and ideas you unleash the passion and drive in someone and it shows in everything they do.
The staff are important too, they need to have to the same passion as the owner and I’ve been very lucky in that respect. The majority of my small team have been with me from the beginning and they have evolved as much as the business has. Customers now ask for a specific member of staff by name, ask about their wellbeing and their family which is lovely.
Finally, describe Just Grand! in three words…
Quirky. Relaxed. Homely.