De­signer hot­shots breathe new life into lo­cal favourite

Natty cafe shop is back as in­spired new own­ers in­ject re­vamp with a splash of cre­ative pas­sion

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By Alan Smith aj­smith@thek­m­group.co.uk @aj­smithKM

Harpers, one of Maid­stone’s best loved eater­ies, is set to re­turn to the town later this month.

New own­ers, hus­band and wife team Clau­dine and Nick Bed­ford, saw their new sig­nage painted on the shop front in Mar­ket Gar­dens this week.

They are keep­ing the cafe and gift shop mix, and have car­ried out an ex­ten­sive re­fur­bish­ment, with a new floor and longer serv­ing counter.

There is also a cus­tomer toi­let and baby-change area, a devel­op­ment Mrs Bed­ford said was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for shop­pers.

Seat­ing will be re­duced from 45 to 30 cov­ers, but Mrs Bed­ford said: “This means we will be rich in space – and there will be plenty of room for mums to come in with pushchairs.”

Harpers will be the cou­ple’s first ven­ture in ca­ter­ing. Mrs Bed­ford has a de­gree in fash­ion de­sign and pre­vi­ously worked as head of de­sign at De Baer Cor­po­rate Cloth­ing.

After tak­ing time off to look after their first child, she re­trained as a pri­mary school teacher, and worked at Palace Wood Pri­mary School un­til July.

Mr Bed­ford started his ca­reer in com­mer­cials and pop video pro­duc­tion. He then moved into dig­i­tal ef­fects pro­duc­tion on movies, and worked on ti­tles such as Casino Royale, Tomb Raider and The Golden Com­pass.

Mrs Bed­ford said: “We vis­ited the old Harpers on many oc­ca­sions. It was a favourite spot for our fam­ily. When it came up for sale, we jumped at the chance. With my love of de­sign and my hus­band’s love of cof­fee and cook­ing it is the per­fect com­bi­na­tion for us.

“We are so ex­cited to take the Harpers brand for­ward and to con­tinue to serve high qual­ity, home­made food.”

The cou­ple in­tend to stock a range of home­ware and gifts, from crock­ery to in­te­rior ac­ces­sories and ev­ery­day items.

They will both work in the cafe and em­ploy one full-time staff mem­ber, two part-timers and four Satur­day staff.

Harpers first opened in 2007. Its last owner, Frank Good­hind, called it a day in May this year.

FM4772708

Harpers be­fore be­ing taken over for re­brand­ing

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