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Perth’s Willows cafe toasts to 30 years in business as it celebrates milestone with customers

Owner Michael White outside Willows.
Owner Michael White outside Willows.

A family owned coffee shop and restaurant in Perth is celebrating 30 years in business this month.

Willows on  St John’s Place has now served more than three million customers since launching in 1992.

The firm was established by owners William White and his then wife Carol Barrowdowth and was taken over by son Michael White in May 2010.

Michael has continued to run the café, which has employed 500 plus people in its time, over the last 12 years.

Serving up a range of daily freshly baked cakes, coffee and a full lunch menu that changes every two weeks, the eatery, which seats a total of 165, welcomed customers old and new to its premises recently to mark the occasion with special bakes.

From left to right, Joyce Campbell (Pastry Chef), Patriocja Buhl (manager), Michael White (owner), Steve Terry (operations manager) and Caitlin Shea (Barista).
From left: Joyce Campbell (pastry chef), Patriocja Buhl (manager), Michael White (owner), Steve Terry (operations manager) and Caitlin Shea (barista).

Mastering success

But what is the secret recipe to success when it comes to running a café?

Hard work and innovation says Michael.

“In a nutshell, it takes a lot of work.

“And the ability to keep up with and look ahead at how customers tastes are changing and what their expectations are.

“You have to be constantly innovating and trying new things because if you stand still you don’t survive.”

❤️ HOT CROSS BUN LATTE is now available 🤩🤩🤩Served with cream and topped with some spices ☕️🥧YUMMY YUMMY 😘

Posted by Willows Perth on Sunday, 10 April 2022

The past two years during the pandemic have tested the business. Being restricted to trade, price hikes and staffing shortages have all played a part in the adaptation of Willows, but Michael is proud of all they have achieved and is delighted to see the venue hit this milestone.

He said: “It is a great accomplishment and especially the last couple years, it has been harder than ever.

“But its great to say we’ve been here for 30 years and we don’t plan on going anywhere.”

Rich history

Having worked in the catering industry for most of his life, William had always wanted to open his own place and finally made his dream come true.

Originally a coffee shop, the lease for Willows was signed by William in December 1991.

After carrying out work to convert the shell from January 1992 to May 1992 into Willows, it wasn’t until May 17 that they finally opened.

The date is especially sentimental as it is Carol’s birthday.

Who recognises the building in the picture?This was taken prior to opening 30 years ago back when Willie White started…

Posted by Willows Perth on Sunday, 15 May 2022

Recognising a gap in the market with a limited number of coffee shops open in Perth in the early 1990s, the couple opened the premises when Michael was just five years old.

Willows also created the first outdoor pavement seating for a café in Perth by working alongside the city centre management.

Family at its heart

Keeping the business in the family, Michael worked at the café from the age of 12 and fell in love with hospitality.

The now 35-year-old took the café back to a shell in 2017 and refurbished the space with a larger kitchen and new bar area.

“I did everything from start to finish because it was well past its use-by date” said Michael.

Owner Michael White outside Willows.
Owner Michael White outside Willows.

The family also owns Brew and Chew on Perth High Street and 109 Cafe on South Street which they supply with food and baking from Willows.

Michael plans to continue offering a café experience to the Perth community seven days a week from 8am to 5pm and hopes to build further wholesale contracts locally.

Address: 12 – 14 St John’s Place, Perth PH1 5SZ


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