A NEW chapter is about to begin in the history of the 16th-century building in Midhurst’s North Street which was for many years home to Ye Olde Tea Shoppe.
The historic building is to reopen tomorrow evening (April 17) as a tapas bar and restaurant to be called The Olive and Vine.
It has been taken over by Midhurst couple Dean Brown-Fuller and Jess Warren, who have spent several months giving the old building a makeover.
For Jess the opening is particularly poignant as she had her first job there at the age of 14.
“It’s amazing to be back in the beautiful building, which has so much potential,” she told the Observer.
“We hope we’ve given it the new lease of life it deserves with myself and Dean at the helm.”
Dean and Jess took over the lease of the property late last year when Ye Old Tea Shoppe closed its doors after previous cafe-owners Mary Geiss and her partner Clive Newell suffered a decline in business and decided to call it a day.
With a wealth of experience in the catering industry between them, Dean and Jess said: “We wanted to ‘go it alone’ in the hospitality business and when this shop came up, we couldn’t think of a better place than to do it in our own home town.”
The tearooms had been run by Mary and Clive since 1999 and the shop features a wealth of beams and architectural features including a 16th-century wall painting.
Author HG Wells, who was both a pupil and a teacher at the former Midhurst Grammar School, lodged in the rooms above the shop.
Jess and Dean say they are grabbing an opportunity to open in the town at a time when business is upbeat.
“We believe Midhurst is entering a really exciting time,” said Jess.
“It’s got a real buzz about it that we haven’t felt or seen for years and it’s because it feels like good things are just around the corner.
“With the new school, new leisure centre and the possibility of a new supermarket, plus so much more housing being created in the area, it feels like Midhurst is going back on the map and we want to be a part of it.
“We want to add to the already varied and diverse offering of eateries in Midhurst and give residents and tourists another option.”
Many traders believe Waitrose plans to open a new supermarket on the site of the old Grange off Bepton Road are a sign of good times.
When Chichester District Council announced last month that Kimberley Developers working with Waitrose were their preferred buyers for the site, there was widespread delight.
Chairman of the Midhurst Town Team, Geoff Allnutt, who owns a long-established family jewellers and watch business in West Street, said: “I think it would be a really positive thing for both the traders and the shoppers in Midhurst.
“It would bring people to the town, keep them here and stop them going to Petersfield and Haslemere to do their shopping.”
It was also described as the ‘last piece in the increasingly impressive and dynamic jigsaw for Midhurst which means the town continues to punch above its weight’.
Mary Geiss blamed the decline of trade on rising business rates and the failure of local authorities to support business, as well as the disappearance of coach parking space.