Getting to Know Heather Tilstone of Tsp, Hanley

Getting to Know Heather Tilstone of Tsp, Hanley

In Getting to Know, we branch out to local businesses and notable figures in and around Stoke on Trent to offer you exclusive behind the scenes insights.

Last week, we had the privilege of catching up with Heather Tilstone of Tsp to find out about 'lemon curdy' cakes, business innovation and the hilarious results of staff hygiene courses. Read on to find out more.

Hi Heather, could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do at Tsp?

Okay, so my husband Gavin and I started the business in November 2014. I'm a passionate home baker, and both myself and Gavin love good coffee, tea and cakes. We used to live in London, and as neither of us really drink, the coffee shop became our pub. Upon moving back to Stoke, we felt like the coffee culture was missing from the city so we decided to build it ourselves.

What does a typical day at Tsp look like (if there is such a thing)?

Our day starts at 6am to start food prep and baking, as well as getting the deliveries in. Our doors usually open at 8am with a few people standing at the door eager for their morning pick-me-up. The breakfast service is starting to get really busy, but it generally quietens down around 10am - only to pick back up at lunchtime. Things are going very well at the moment, but our success seems to have hit all of a sudden so we need to make some changes at the back of the house to make sure we continue to offer an excellent service. We close our doors at 5pm for a thorough clean down before heading off home (hopefully).

When did we decide to open, and inspirations behind it?

Gav and I are really impulsive people; we'll literally flip a coin to decide on things. So after a pretty few rough years and with Gav quitting his job in September 2014, we agreed that both of us needed to make some changes. Gav was working on the shop floor for another local business called 'Entrepreneurs' and saw this little corner patch was up for rent, so we went along to see it. The place was such a mess, but both of our backgrounds are in interior design and product design, so we knew we could make it beautiful. That said, we flipped a coin and got a coffee shop! We're very inspired by places like North Tea Power, Brew Lab and Kaffeine; we love the coffee vibe that is around at the moment.

Was being located in Hanley's Cultural Quarter something you aimed for?

Yes, we had friends opening a shop 'Entrepreneurs' nearby and the new Council buildings popping up at the end of the road, so we really thought that times were changing and that this could be a great spot in years to come. I'd like to think that we've helped to draw more business to the street too.

Recently you've featured in The Sentinel's list of coolest coffee shops, how did that feel?

Yeah, really good. We have a good relationship with the press, and it's nice when they want to feature us. I guess it's like a pat on the back, which sometimes you need to stay motivated.

What's your favourite Tsp product?

I can't resist the ‘lemon curdy’ Cake - it's a king among cake. However, most people rave about our chocolate brownies, combined with a latte -  they’re pretty epic.

And what's the most amusing thing that's ever happened at Tsp?

Well, I'm not sure if I should say, certainly not name names!

Once the team were on food hygiene training and during the part about airborne particles, I mouthed the words 'like trumps' to a colleague, who then got the giggles and actually trumped in the middle of the room. So all of our team very unprofessionally got the giggles and everyone knows that feeling when you mustn't giggle, and you just can't stop. Basically, some of us couldn't breathe we were trying so hard to keep it together, I think I ended up crying, but I was pregnant at the time.

Last but not least, do you have exciting things on the horizon?

Yes, we are currently working on getting our upstairs area open so we can have more seating and can put on events; we're also looking to have a retail space to expand on our current stock for sale. We are hoping to start doing high tea too, and maybe even offering catering, which is something that we occasionally already do. Our website is very nearly ready so people can place orders online, which I'm sure will prove very helpful.

Thanks Heather, it’s been a pleasure. For more information and up to data news on the business, check out Tsp Facebook page.