The former Starbucks barista who now owns a successful valleys coffee shop

The former Starbucks barista who now owns a successful valleys coffee shop

When Chris Lane went to get his hair cut three years he didn’t expect to buy the salon.

Three years later he runs a successful coffee shop and bar there, on Pontyclun high street.

Coffee-fan Chris, was travelling around Australia and Asia when he had the idea of creating his own business

.Read more:The best places to get takeaway coffee in Cardiff

Chris Lane, owner of The Thirsty Elephant in Pontyclun.
Chris took over the salon where he used to go

He always loved festivals and travelling and came up with the idea of selling coffee around the country in a campervan.

After returning from his travels in 2015, Chris knew he wanted to create a travelling coffee business but there was one problem, he didn’t know how to make a cup of coffee.

He got a job at his local Starbucks for a year, learning how the coffee business works before saving enough money to buy a van.

“The campervan is my baby, I call her Florence and The Machine.”

Chris with his beloved coffee van

Monday to Friday at 5:30am, Chris would park his van outside Pontyclun train station and serve coffee to commuters.

“At the beginning I would only serve coffee to 15 people a day but it wasn’t for the money, it was more to get to know customers and what would work.”

On the weekends Chris, would travel up and down the country to festivals and events where he would serve coffee to thousands of people.

He did that for two years when he realised he missed having regular customers.

“My passion is people and getting to know my customers, so I wanted to open up my own coffee shop.”

He recognised there was nothing for young people in the area, so started looking to rent a shop.

“I went for a haircut one day, as the hairdresser was cutting my hair she was explaining to me how they were leaving the salon. I told her about my idea of the coffee shop and she gave me the landlord’s number.”

The Thirsty Elephant coffee shop opened in 2019, Chris’ plan was for it to be a social hub for the village where people can come in, feel comfortable in a nice space and get good quality coffee.

Being environmentally friendly is very important to Chris so all his takeaway stuff is compostable and they recycle as much as possible. They only work with companies with a good ethos.

After just selling coffee and cake for a year, Chris recognised there were no bars in the area.

The Thirsty Elephant, Pontyclun

Chris said: “You either had to go into Cowbridge or Cardiff to get a decent cocktail.”

So in 2019, he enquired about an alcohol license and ran a few trial events to see if there was interest.

They sold out in every event they held and turned the Thirsty Elephant into a popular bar.

“It is amazing seeing my regular coffee shop customers come in and let their hair down.”

However after getting his alcohol licence, COVID hit and The Thirsty Elephant had to close.

During the pandemic, Chris and his team were busy developing the business. They delivered coffee around Pontyclun and planned their next steps.

Since the lockdown has lifted, the bar has been full every weekend with local residents booking tables.

“The support has been insane, we have built such a reputation with our local customers. They are the driving force to the business.”

Chris has gone from working on his own in the van to running a team of 10 people. He is now looking for a chef to turn the shop into a restaurant too. They are looking to serve brunch in the daytime and tapas at night.

“The business upstairs is leaving so we have bought that and are looking to expand. We got the keys in December and it should be ready next month.”

The Thirsty Elephant is loved by local residents and is constantly adapting and changing but Chris will never forget serving coffee at the train station.

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