If there were special links to bring two strong businesswomen together under one roof one was a passion for what they do – the other was the Longridge name of Eccles.
For both Diane Holt and Michelle Unsworth can claim ‘distant relationship’ under that popular local name – and 2016 has been the year that Diane joined Michelle at So Plants garden centre to open The Potting Shed Cafe in the centre’s former barn.
Once part of Jack Martindale’s farm, over the years it became a cafe, then a Thai restaurant, then a cafe when site owners Denis and Mavis Lambert ran the complex as Spout Farm Nursery.
Three years ago, Michelle took over the business with the name So Plants Boutique Garden Centre, creating a small part of it for customers to relax and enjoy refreshments.
But this has now blossomed out– and up – into the fully refurbished cafe above the garden centre premises, filled with Diane’s theme of all the traditional and quirky items which might be found in the best potting shed ever!
Once a dark and run down space after not being used for several years, the cafe’s beams and timber have been lightened with the help of Diane’s dad Ted, 80, and brother Alan, the big flower-filled windows flood the interior with its custom-made tables and chairs from Craig Brown in Longridge, doors open out on to an attractive roof terrace to enjoy on summer days, a central chandelier is lit by glittering tea-lights...and the piece-de-resistance, created mainly from timber palettes by skilled Longridge joiner Paul Ashton, is the actual Potting Shed structure at the service end of the cafe from where teas and coffees are served.
Head chef at Ribchester’s Glass House until December, Diane has been in the hospitality industry for 35 years and, with Michelle, they are aiming to create a unique destination where people can spend a few leisurely hours enjoying good locally sourced food and drink, and take time to browse around all the offerings in both cafe and garden centre.
Growing up in Longridge and later moving to Ribchester, Diane feels she knows the importance of using local suppliers and produce, and sources include Rowle’s butchers, Berry Lane Bakery, Thomas Moss for vegetables and confectioner Janet Wallbank.
She said “Our menu will feature many recipes, using local, seasonal produce to keep them fresh and imaginative.
“There will be a selection of platters, unusual salads, hearty home cooked food and much more.
“I’ve brought my very good team with me to the Potting Shed and know we are all going to make it a great place to visit.”
Since opening the garden centre, Michelle has also kept to her sound belief of buying locally, and the majority of her stock is sourced from the area.
Since opening, the business has gone from strength to strength and she says “the centre is plant led, we are keen gardeners and plant lovers and can source many unusual varieties that also thrive in the Ribble Valley.”
Special events are planned such as an ice cream day and there is always a chance to enjoy the Classic or Picnic Basket choice of afternoon teas...so go along to ‘wait to be planted’ at your table, buy some of the special garden items, and peruse the in-season menu to enjoy a meal with a difference in a very special setting.