Our social media cover star: Beanie at Bean Social

Owner James has taken the radical approach of launching a Crowdfunder campaign so that those who love Bean Social can help to save it.

To find our latest cover star we headed to Durham’s North Road and the independent coffee house Bean Social – a venue that opened in 2017, and pitches itself as a warm and safe place for everyone to “eat, drink and gather”.

Founder and owner James Gardener prefers the venue’s well-known mascot, Beanie – rather than him – to feature in all Bean Social’s social media, so we couldn’t do anything but celebrate this fantastic Durham indie using our first furry Indie Durham City cover star!

“Chilled vibe”

The Secret Garden at Bean Social
The Secret Garden at Bean Social

There’s no doubt that Bean Social has been a great addition to our city centre. Particularly popular with students and lecturers, but welcoming of everyone, the business quickly built a loyal following among people who love its chilled vibe, tasty food (including plenty of vegan options), and delightful “secret garden” hidden out the back.

As you’ve probably seen on social media or in the Chronicle, though, Bean Social has – like many other traders in North Road – been hit by the delayed reconstruction of Durham’s bus station, which occupies the site directly opposite, and was originally expected to reopen by the end of this summer.

No-one would disagree that the old bus station was way beyond its use-by date, or that the new £10.4m bus station – now due to be completed sometime next year – will be a welcome addition to North Road, and convey a much-improved first impression of Durham. Indeed, James’ initial forecasts for the business took into account the likely disruption from the planned 18-month redevelopment.

However, with completion of the bus station still a long way off, traders in North Road continue to have the challenge of noisy buses – and queues of people – waiting outside their shops at the temporary bus stops, which, in James’ case, has seen takings drop by a third during the bus station works.

With all the crowds to navigate, and only one pavement open up the street, it’s not surprising that some people who might otherwise visit North Road have stayed away.

What’s frustrating, though, is that Bean Social is fundamentally a good and viable business: it was trading well before Covid, managed to get through the pandemic, and will surely thrive again once the bus station reopens, just as long as it can survive until then.

Save the Bean

Bean Social in North Road
Bean Social in North Road

That’s why James has taken the radical approach of launching a Crowdfunder campaign so that those who love Bean Social can help to save it.

With a week still to go, 142 supporters have so far pledged an incredible £7,661 – but if the £10,000 target isn’t met by 12 July, the Crowdfunder will fail, and Bean Social will have to close for good at the end of August.

That’s because the coffee house’s lease is about to expire and James, understandably, isn’t in a position to sign a whole new lease at this time.

However, the building’s landlord – who believes in the future of the business as much as James does – has offered an 18-month lease extension. If the £10,000 is raised, this would allow James to commit to the lease extension, which should see the business through the bus station works and successfully out the other side once North Road returns to some level of normality.

“The tastiest homemade vegan burger”

One of Bean Social's delicious vegan burgers
One of Bean Social’s delicious vegan burgers

We’ll confess that we’d never sampled Bean Social before last month, but the Crowdfunder has also had the useful impact of reminding people what they’re missing.

We spent a very amiable couple of hours soaking up the atmosphere of Bean Social, chatting to James, and enjoying one of the tastiest homemade vegan burgers we’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. And it soon became evident to us why Bean Social is so important.

From the obvious passion that drove James to launch the business in the first place, to the way in which regulars greet James – and each other – like old friends, it’s clear that Bean Social isn’t just a coffee house. It’s a real community.

If you haven’t been to Bean Social recently – or at all – we encourage you to pay a visit. Right now, every coffee or sandwich you buy makes an important difference in keeping the business going.

And if you value what Bean Social brings to the city, please do consider contributing to the Crowdfunder, and helping to spread the word so that others can pledge their support.

“More distinctive”

Indie Durham City is all about supporting and championing the brilliant independent businesses that we already have in the city, as well as encouraging and welcoming new ones.

As we keep working to make Durham an even more attractive place to visit and to linger, it would be an immense shame if we were to lose one of the businesses that currently helps to make our city more distinctive, more welcoming, and more special.

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