Lockdown hobby turns into new business for Herefordshire friends

TWO friends from a Herefordshire town have opened their own smoke shack cafe after starting to smoke meat in their back gardens during lockdown.

Rob Ramshaw and John Crook, along with two silent partners, have brought new life to the former Bells Court Cafe in Leominster’s South Street, opening RJ’s Smoke Shack.

John Crook and, inset, Rob Ramshaw, have opened RJ Smoke Shack in Leominster’s South Street. Picture: Rob Davies

The pair first started cooking their own smoked food and gourmet during lockdown, posting pictures of their food on social media.

“It went crazy,” Mr. Crook said.

“People started asking when they could start getting some of our food and pushing us to start serving it to the public, so we had a chat about it all and thought right let’s go for this!”

The pair started with a shack built in Mr Crook’s back garden, promoting their food on Facebook and Instagram, and were overwhelmed by the “explosion” of attention they received.

And it was not just the eyes of customers that their food had caught, with investors getting in touch to ask if they had thought of opening their own premises.

“We only thought that would happen after a few years of serving from the back garden,” Mr Crook said.

“We explained this to them and they said we will invest and get you a premises sorted. Then a local cafe came up for sale, so we decided to go for it.”

Mr Crook said they are keen to support other small businesses in Leominster, with RJ’s Smoke Shack using locally sourced ingredients including meat from the local butcher, locally baked bread, and salads, vegetables, and eggs all coming from their local fruit and veg shop.

“It is something we did so we can help all the other small businesses in our local town,” he said.

“We are all born and bred in Leominster which makes it even better to throw something back into the community!

“We do pre-orders through the week via our website for burgers and smoked foods, and plan to change the smoked option every week. We also do flavored Mr Whippy ice creams, which have gone down a storm.”

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