WHEN Thomson’s started serving tea and coffee to Glaswegians at a shop in St Vincent Street in 1841, Queen Victoria had only been on the throne for four years.

And 177 years later the brand is going from strength to strength after being given a new lease of life by local entrepreneur Russell Jenkins.

Last month the coffee roaster and distributor opened a stunning new café, bakery, roastery and training centre in Glasgow’s iconic Arches, the former club and arts venue which recently re-opened with a food market and community space.

It all part of Mr Jenkins' ambitious plan to build on Scotland’s already burgeoning independent coffee industry.

“Over the last few years we’ve invested around £400,000 in the business, growing our staff and creating a new vision and infrastructure for the company,” says the 37-year-old.

“The move to The Arches puts us at the forefront of Scottish coffee, which I think is fitting when you consider our long heritage.

“Training is a big part of our future and we plan to offer certification for all aspects of the coffee business, from baristas to roasters, as part of our café, showroom and education centre.

“Making coffee from scratch is a much more complex and sensory experience than people may think, a very skilled job. We want to share our centuries of experience with as many different audiences as possible.

“Independent coffee roasters in Glasgow are a close-knit community and we all help each other out. We see ourselves as a central hub for this scene.”

Glaswegian Mr Jenkins left school at 15 and had earned a software development degree by the time he was 18. And since being made redundant at the tender age of 19 he has always worked for himself, setting up successful web design and hamper firms.

But with a passion for coffee, he saw long-term potential in Thomson’s - which also supplies and trains a wide array of domestic and commercial customers all over Scotland - and after becoming a partner in 2011, took over as managing director in 2015.

It’s been a learning experience for the serial entrepreneur, who still very much enjoys being hands-on.

“The business is like a family and we all do a bit of everything – I have no problems cleaning toilets and making coffee,” he explains. “And I still do lots of roasting. Being a gadget person, I love the fact that we have the oldest coffee roaster in Scotland and the newest, most advanced.

“I’m still learning how best to delegate, communicate and involve the staff as much as possible and encourage their creative input.”

And it’s that creative spark that drives Mr Jenkins, who lives in Giffnock with his wife and two dogs.

“I love coming up with an idea in the morning and making it happen the same day,” he says. “I’m involved in every part of the business, from the website and photography to the roasting, and because there is no hierarchy to go through, we can be nimble and adapt quickly to change.

“The trouble-shooting side of things also appeals to the technical side of my brain. I’m pretty patient and enjoy looking at processes and constantly trying to improve things, though I know it sometimes drives my colleagues mad.”

And with almost 20 years under his belt, Mr Jenkins is well-placed to offer sage advice to those starting or taking over an existing business.

“When you’re a start-up you need to be very careful around expenditure,” he says. “Don’t spend a fortune on marketing and branding until you’ve tested the water. These days with the likes of Amazon and eBay you can get a product to market really quickly without having to build your own infrastructure. Make the most of that.

“When you take over a company it’s important to think about how you are going to communicate change to existing customers and bring them round to your way of thinking.

“I’d also say don’t be scared to start over. Sometimes things are too far gone and can’t be fixed. Starting from scratch, creating a whole new vision, can be exciting.”

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