New business

Lockdown hobby turns into new business for Friends of Herefordshire

TWO friends from a Herefordshire town have opened their own tobacconist cafe after they started smoking meat in their back gardens during lockdown.

Rob Ramshaw and John Crook, along with two silent partners, have breathed new life into the former Bells Court Cafe on South Street in Leominster, opening RJ’s Smoke Shack.

John Crook and, inset, Rob Ramshaw, opened RJ Smoke Shack on South Street in Leominster. Photo: Rob Davies

The couple started cooking their own smoked and gourmet food during the lockdown, posting photos of their food on social media.

“It got crazy,” Mr Crook said.

“People started asking when they could start getting some of our food and pushing us to start serving it to the public, so we discussed all of this and thought okay, let’s go!”

The couple started with a hut built in Mr Crook’s garden, promoting their food on Facebook and Instagram, and were overwhelmed by the ‘explosion’ of attention they received.

And it wasn’t just the eye of customers that their food had caught on, with investors reaching out to ask if they’d thought about opening their own establishment.

“We only thought it would happen after a few years of service from the back garden,” Mr Crook said.

“We explained this to them and they said we would invest and find you a local sorted. Then a local cafe came up for sale, so we decided to go.”

Mr Crook said they wanted to support other small businesses in Leominster, with RJ’s Smoke Shack using locally sourced ingredients including meat from the local butcher, locally baked bread and salads, vegetables and eggs all from their local produce store.

“It’s something we did so we could help out all the other small businesses in our local town,” he said.

“We were all born and raised in Leominster which makes giving back to the community even better!

“We do pre-orders throughout the week through our website for burgers and smoked foods, and plan to change the smoked option every week. We also do Mr Whippy flavored ice cream, which has been the object of a storm.”