In Conversation With: Fleur de Thé
Countryside caught up with Cheryl Hammond, the founder of Fleur de Thé. Rochester-based tearoom and gift shop located a five-minute walk from its waterside development, Rochester Riverside.
What inspired you to set up Fleur de Thé?
Six years ago, my husband, Paul, and I decided we wanted to change our careers and had a now or never moment. We both have backgrounds in catering and licencing, and I love interior design so we thought we would go for it and set up our own tearoom and gift shop. I love the little gifts that you can’t find anywhere else, so it was perfect to combine the two ideas.
Since we started in 2014, we’ve gone from a team of two working seven days a week, to now having two managers and numerous staff, plus another site in a lovely Grade I Georgian Mansion in Danson park Bexleyheath, Kent overlooking the lake.
Why did you choose Rochester?
Paul and I are based in Bexleyheath, but my parents live in Rochester and when we’ve gone to visit, we’ve always loved it, especially the high street. We thought it was the perfect place for our business as the town has so much character and the high street is filled with independent local shops only. Since opening, we’ve got to know the community so well, we have lots of regulars who come in daily for a cup of tea and a chat. As well as celebrating the community’s milestones, like baby showers and hen parties with our special afternoon teas.
We also get to meet a variation of people, especially tourists who come to visit Rochester and enjoy its beauty.
What makes Rochester different?
Rochester is special because of its history and close-knit community. Every year, all the shops on the high street come together to celebrate the different festivals. Like the Dickens festival, which happens every Christmas. Everyone puts up stalls outside their shops and sells different products. We normally offer mulled wine and Christmas gifts. There is also a market in the castle grounds which we also open our stall in, it's so nice to be surrounded by the town’s history and get to know the community.
What’s your lockdown experience been like?
Like many other businesses like ours, it’s been difficult, but the government has helped us as much as they can. Sadly, we can’t enjoy all the different events and festivals that are special to Rochester this year, but it will make next year even better. It’s been so nice to be able to reopen and see all the faces we used to see every day. Some of our regular customers have been alone through lockdown, so it's special that we can open our doors again and offer them a cup of tea, cake and a chat.
Fleur de Thé is located on 134 High Street, Rochester, ME1 1JT.