ACROSS the nation, ‘chatty cafes’ have become all the rage, yet the Border Bean at Kington has been encouraging customers to have a good natter since serving the first cuppa five years ago.

At a time when concerns about loneliness and isolation are making headlines, the café has earned its place in the local community. Not only is it bucking the widespread trend in high street business closures, the Border Bean’s success has made it a popular gathering point for locals and visitors alike.

Now celebrating its fifth birthday, the café opened in October 2013, a steep learning curve for the Border Bean’s joint proprietors, Kathy Thompson and Beccy Haydon as they cheerfully admit. But their bright and welcoming café, serving up food, drinks, coffee roasted in Ross-on-Wye and home-made cakes courtesy of Kathy – who runs a monthly coffee morning at Lyonshall – and Border Bean manager, 21-year-old Chloe Brown, manages to tick all the boxes.

All comers tend to find what they need: students from Lady Hawkins’ School seeking work experience, others looking for business know-how, local artists and photographers hoping to borrow wall space to show off their creations. Meanwhile, the Border Bean is disabled-friendly with easy access and lots of space, and mums, babies, prams and pushchairs will all find a warm welcome. What’s more, the cafe is already doing its bit to make Kington a champion for dementia awareness, and it is deemed a ‘safe place’ for customers by Herefordshire Mencap.

“A Chatty Café scheme is being rolled out nationally,” explains Beccy. “then we realised the Border Bean’s always been like that!” She and Kathy, friends since co-running the Parent Teacher Association at Pembridge, look out for their customers. “We have an ageing population and we’re aware of loneliness so we want people who are alone to feel they can come in here and interact with others.

“It sounds like a cliché, but it’s like a family!”

The two women sought professional advice when they embarked on their business idea. The entrepreneurial Bill Sewell, who launched three highly successful restaurants in churches – including All Saints’ in Hereford – was happy to oblige. “He said we should get experience of working in a café but we just wanted to get on with it!” says Beccy.

Kathy remembers him asking if their friendship could take the strain. “We worked together on the PTA, Beccy as chairman and me, treasurer. We realised we were a good team and on a similar wavelength.”

Thanks to their supportive husbands, the two owners can put their feet up when they go home at the end of a busy day.

“We wouldn’t be able to sustain the workload without our lovely husbands,” says Beccy, whose husband, Shaun takes charge of the kitchen at home in Titley, while Kathy looks forward to her husband, Malcolm serving up the evening meal in Lyonshall.