Dame Kelly closes café to focus on new ideas for village
by Andy Tong | 2nd November 2018
DAME KELLY HOLMES’ Café 1809 in Hildenborough will close later this month after the double Olympic gold-winning athlete said she wanted to ‘bring new energy into my life and the village’.
The former long-distance runner opened the café in December 2014 as the culmination of a 15-year ambition but she says, ‘now I have other ambitions’. It will close its doors on November 25.
The premises at 152-154 London Road, which was formerly a newsagents, will be retained as a place for staging events, pop-ups and ‘community gatherings’.
Dame Kelly said it had been a ‘big decision’, explaining: “From age 13 to 16 I worked as a paper round girl doing two rounds before school, going on to work behind the till in a sweet shop situated in my home village that was on the site.”
“I tried to buy the building for 15years during my British Army and British athletics career. I finally bought the building five-and-a-half years ago, rebuilding 90 per cent of it – I was project manager of the rebuild, not the best one but I did it – to transform it into a coffeehouse as it stands to this today.”
The 48-year-old, who won gold at 800m and 1500m at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, named the establishment after the number on her running vest.
‘It was 90 per cent what I wanted it to be.
But 90 per cent is not good enough for me'
She added: “I am chuffed with what I created through vision and passion but sometimes you realise that it’s not always enough and that if industries like this change you may have to think differently. Costs, staffing, supplies all factor into the success of a business.
“I would say it was 90 per cent what I wanted it to be. But 90 per cent is not good enough for me. So I have decided to reinvent the space and maximise its usage, using my creative flair, vision and passion again and try to do something different.
“I own the building and have made some great friends through the world of sport, running, military, business, music, arts, health, fitness, food, media and more, so watch this space – literally.
“So let’s see what I can come up with. Sometimes you have to be prepared to take risks, otherwise you can miss opportunities for exciting change, to be self-re-energised and happy.
“We will still do a pop-up café here and there, and I hope that it would be something that just brings different people in, a different energy, more people can utilise the space and it’s just a new time.”
The café will remain open on Fridays and Saturdays to cater for the many cyclists who have frequented it regularly.
An ‘Active’ branch of Café 1809 was opened at the Cyclopark in Gravesend in June 2017 but it closed three months later for financial reasons.
She also intends to host yoga sessions in the revamped space and is in talks with the charity West Kent Mind about holding mental health workshops.
Dame Kelly, who has been outspoken about her issues with depression and self-harming, said she would be channelling some of her energies into campaigning on related issues.
“It’s time to change: New focus, new energy,” she said. “I want to spread my passions more around mental health, talking out about it’s OK not to be OK.
“I think it’s so important with the stats of suicide rates in the country, especially for men under 45 or for teenagers.
I am in the public eye and I’ve been very open with my own mental health problems and my bereavement from my mother passing away last year.”
Dame Kelly, 48, lost her beloved ‘Mother Dear’ Pam to the blood cancer myeloma in August 2017, and has also campaigned to raise awareness of the disease.
Born in Pembury, she attended Hildenborough Primary School before going on to Hugh Christie in Tonbridge. She is regularly seen running around the lanes – something she hopes to be able to do more often now.
She joined the Army at the age of 18, serving in the Royal Armoured Corps [RAC], and in September she was made the first ever Honorary Colonel of the RAC Training Regiment.
Tea and Sympathy
Locals and fans left messages of support for Dame Kelly:
Emma Musgrove Johnson: “I grew up in Hildenborough and the old shop holds lovely memories of growing up. Buying sweets from Ben the old owner, a lovely man. It was so lovely to see that building transformed into something so positive.”
Lynn Bunt: “It’s a lovely space with a good vibe and atmosphere. I’m sure whatever you do will be a great addition to Hildenborough. Change is good. Good luck with your new venture.”
Barry Mann: “Sad times. A regular stop on a local loop ride, for coffee & cake before I tackle Carter’s Hill. Was a dream to chat to you in there once. Blown away by how ‘normal’ you are (in a good way, obvs). I loved the place. Will be sorry to see it go.”