Wake up and smell the coffee

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In conversation

Spencer Bowman

Mettricks Tea & Coffee House

Southampton

Spencer Bowman is the man behind the successful Mettricks coffee houses in Southampton and beyond. He tells Southampton Magazine about his business philosophy.

Saying “YES” has helped the endearingly charismatic Spencer Bowman to build a trio of speciality coffee houses in the centre of Southampton (plus a few pop-ups for good measure) in the time it takes most companies to write a business plan.

Taking his grandparents surname for the brand, he has created places where people want to meet friends, catch-up over very good coffee and enjoy city life.

“I’ve said yes to everything really. That’s why we host art, music, poetry – whatever people want to bring here. We’ve hosted fringe events here for British Arts show 8 and we were the launch venue for So to Speak, the spoken word festival.

“We even have a cycle club that meets here once a week,” said Spencer, whose own bike is propped by the window.

Having gone to school in Southampton, Spencer left the city for a corporate career in London with Goldman Sachs and Mars that saw him travelling the world.

But when he decided a career change was needed, he was drawn back to his home city.

“There’s always been tons of untapped potential here – when I was younger I can remember being endlessly frustrated by that.

“When I decided to come back here, it wasn’t just a business I was opening, it was a lifestyle choice. In my last job at Mars, I managed a field sales team and I was getting paid a nice amount of money but I wanted to create something I could be proud of here in my home city.

“It was about growing something and being tied into the city” he said.

Photos of his family cover the wall in the Mettricks café in Guildhall Walk and clearly those links with previous generations have helped him to develop the ethos for his business.

“My grandma has had a big influence in my life. She ran a small business until a couple of years ago in the New Forest.  I learned a lot about being committed to doing a good job from her, saw how much hard work she put in but how personally rewarding it could be when you get it right.

“I would love to see Southampton become a real magnet for entrepreneurs - a start up hub here on the south coast where students choose to stick around and people actively locate here because it is a great place to live, work and play.”

Working with local suppliers and supporting other businesses in the city is important to Spencer and where possible he buys local.

“We buy beer from the Dancing Man Brewery and we get our bread from Cottons Bakery at Bitterne Park Triangle.

“We know the people we are dealing with, we are part of the community and it is a close relationship,” he said.

Future plans include a coffee festival and he wants to start roasting his own coffee. Spencer believes the recently agreed Business Improvement District (where businesses elect to pay a levy to fund projects within the district’s boundaries) will make the city even more of a destination of choice.

“I was in Barcelona recently and it was great to see people of all ages enjoying the city in the evening, sitting out in cafés and having a good time.

“This summer you started to get that feeling here in Southampton and this is something we need to develop,” he said.

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