NI couple open Ballyclare cafe after 'wake up call' from family tragedy

Laura and Nicole Cochrane, owners of Café Roo in Ballyclare
Laura and Nicole Cochrane, owners of Café Roo in Ballyclare -Credit:Belfast Live

A Northern Ireland couple launched their new business venture after a family tragedy gave them a "wake up call".

Business owners Nicole and Laura Cochrane opened Café Roo earlier this year, taking over the former premises of the Bees Knees café in Ballyclare.

Laura said the inspiration for opening their own business came after the death of her mother and after wife Nicole was later made redundant, the couple realised "life is too short".

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So far they say they have had "phenomenal" feedback on their new venture - named after their son's favourite video game.

Laura, from Ballyclare said: "Last year my mum took sick. She had stage four cancer and she passed away in September.

“We cared for her, and it was sort of a wakeup call really, that life is too short. A couple of weeks later Nicole got made redundant and we were both in the same boat.”

She added: “The thought of going back into an office job, being unhappy and miserable was not something we wanted to do. Seeing everything with my mum, we felt life was too short and we wanted to do something we both enjoyed and we both loved.

“We looked at a few things. We were considering a catering van and a coffee cart, or something like that, but then we thought we would go all in."

Food from Cafe Roo -Credit:Cafe Roo/ Facebook
Food from Cafe Roo -Credit:Cafe Roo/ Facebook

Nicole said: “Neither of us had started our own business before and we thought we might start smaller, but we just thought that life was too short and we want to open our own café, our own business. Let’s do it and do it right.

"It was really nerve wracking and it was a leap of faith that everything would go the way we wanted, but everything has gone very smoothly.

“It has been far busier than we ever expected, and the feedback we have been getting from Ballyclare people has been phenomenal."

The businesswomen explained that the name Café Roo came from their son’s love of the video game Crash Bandicoot. Nicole said: “It is actually our sons’ nickname. He was obsessed with the video game Crash Bandicoot.

"He was obsessed from when he was aged two or three with the character Ripper Roo and it stuck. That’s where the name came from, Café Roo after Ripper Roo. Our café is named after our son."

The café’s menu ranges from sandwiches to pizzas and everything in between.

Laura explained: “We wanted a simple menu, with quality. Me and our chef Tracy worked together to try and buy all off our produce locally.

"We try to use fresh, local ingredients. Tracy makes scones, croissants, sausage rolls fresh every morning.

“We have a smaller menu, but our ingredients are quality, local produce. That is why we kept it simple.”

Nicole added: “We sort of pushed for the local produce thing, as the local farming community really do appreciate local meat, eggs, fruit and veg.

"Even our coffee beans are sourced locally as we are using Belfast Coffee Roasters beans and our tea is Suki Tea, which is a Belfast brand too, so we try to use ethically sourced and local produce.”

Since opening, the pair have been overwhelmed with the level of support that they have had.

Nicole continued: “We have a lot of regular customers and people coming back and we know their order already because they’ve been coming in twice all week.

"They have come in for breakfast and then they have come in for lunch all week long. You get to know them very quickly.

“We kept on two of the staff from the old Bees Knees, so we have a lot of customers coming in to see them as well and asking for them. It has been very busy, but it has just flown in.”

Laura added: “Everyone has been so supportive as well. It has been great.”

And the café owners say they've had particular praise for one special item on the menu.

“We serve the frys all day long. Everybody comes in praising the fry in here, saying it’s the best fry in Ballyclare," Nicole said.

“We have had a few people call us the best coffee in Ballyclare too. We are the only place in Ballyclare people can come in, sit down and have a fry. We serve our fry all day long and people love it, so come down and try it.”

Café Roo is on Main Street, Ballyclare. Find out more on their Instagram page at @caferooni

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