Celebrating 10 Years of The Epicentre
28th February 2020 by Emma Mathias
With our shop currently closed and the country in lockdown, we’ve had some time on our hands to really reflect on The Epicentre’s journey over the last 10 years. The Epicentre started as an idea which quickly evolved into a plan. With a lot of hard work and determination, our shop in the Lakes became a reality. Happy Birthday to us!
Ambleside is a wonderful town, filled to the brim with people who flock to the beautiful Lake District Fells each year, season, weekend or even every day to fuel their love of the outdoors. Everything from enjoying the scenery to climbing the iconic crags, swimming the open waters to walking the Fells, and just about anything else that can be enjoyed in the outdoors.
The retail marketplace in Ambleside has more stores selling outdoor products than you have fingers and toes, so as a distributor of several amazing outdoor brands, we wanted the opportunity to offer a broader range of fewer brands, all housed in a vibrant and relaxed shopping experience, focussed on excellent service. The Epicentre journey grew from this concept, to an exploration of the potential sites in the town. We viewed several places before coming across the site of the former café, The Epicure.
It was like stepping into a time machine and programming it to take us back to 1976! The Epicure was a curious mix of American Diner and UK hill culture. The ‘Lotta Bottle’ milk dispenser still stood proudly on the counter, the shiny fabric of the booth chairs peppered with holes and tears from being well worn witness to many years’ of exaggerated epic hill stories. The café occupied only a small area in the front of the building and had not enjoyed any upgrading for a long time. The beautiful dusty stone floor of the basement was littered with old ovens, fridges and catering detritus from years of servicing the needs of the Lake District aficionado. Cupboards were still full of old tins of spam, Birds custard powder, and other food stuffs that felt like they might have been around since rationing was a thing! The first and second floor housed flats that were a triumph of location over liveability, with questionable access over rickety and slippery wooden walkways and containing curtains that could have made a great outfit for Austin Powers. A dank garden area set at a gradient separated the garage building at the rear from the main building.
We immediately saw the beauty in the potential of the building and had an adoration for the Epicure that defied any logic on the day or since. The team of three that visited that day had a vision that we sold with gusto to our Managing Director. The name for the shop was quickly decided in a small team session, paying tribute to The Epicure Café, reflecting the Epic nature of the work ahead, and deciding that we could create a reference point for high quality retail in the South Lakes. The Epicentre it would be!
Designers and architects consulted, we engaged the very best local tradesmen (led by Jim Troughton of Troughtons) to join us in a journey of renovation which involved huge efforts and expenses, but also endless enthusiasm to complete our vision in the face of all challenges. The weather tried to beat us back, pouring with rain through months of the build while our craftsmen fought hard to keep the basement dry as they tanked the walls. This turned to heavy snow as the opening day and the staff we had recruited to work in the store found themselves alongside the talented team of builders, joiners, decorators and shopfitters to sand and varnish floors, build fixtures, lift our polished concrete counter in from the street and cable across the rooftops. We worked late into the nights in the run up to Christmas so we could open on Boxing day. Blood, sweat and tears (literally) were given by our staff to get our project open on time, and it is with fond memories of friendship and hard work that we look back on that opening day. We and our craftsmen were awarded the ‘Best Commercial Project in the North West’ for not only the conversion, but for the methods and local materials and teams that we used.
Our small shop front has meant that we are something of a hidden gem once discovered, but our beautiful store and service ethos has brought us a strong following and a powerful advocacy from our customers that we very much appreciate. Our journey builds on the initial idea – a place for people who love the outdoors, offering products that make you feel great whatever the weather or terrain. We look forward to the chance to impress you for many years to come.