Earlier this year in How Wood, a pop-up coffee bar supporting the Dacorum-bases charity DENS opened outside the Anti-Ageing Clinic on Park Street Lane. The lively stand soon had a loyal following in the area from neighbours and workers from the area who were drawn by the delicious drinks and goodies, the super guys behind the bar, and its charity it supported.
We were sad when we noticed it was no longer there, which we learned was the result of the charity deciding not to operate outside Dacorum proper. Luckily we haven’t had to suffer its absence for too long, as tomorrow a bigger and better van is returning with a couple of familiar faces, a new menu, and extended hours.
We caught up with Simon and Tyson, the men responsible, and got the details on their new venture, and their plans for the future. Here’s some highlights in Simon’s own words.
How did the Name WoodYou come about?
So we had an ex-homeless gentleman (very intelligent indeed) who came over one day to see us and he said – ”I know what I would call this” glancing over at the station sign he said ”How Wood You Like your coffee!!!” Tyson and I love the idea of recognising where it all started in our name but we cut it to ‘Wood You’ Our strapline is ‘Treat Yourself To Treat Another’ so Wood You – goes well with this strapline which is always shown with our logo.
How does your charity work?
We are presently a social enterprise – we may become a charity shortly – as I was a social Enterprise Manager previously and worked with Tyson – we see the power this can have in changing lives. I used to feed many homeless people in London most Thursday evenings as I found that that Thursdays was a night when the weren’t food trucks on the streets in North London.
We are doing that again now using profits from Wood You, and also supply socks, gloves, water and items that we know people need as well as food.
We are hooked up to two homeless charities who will send us ex-homeless people and people who suffer from loneliness and may be recovering from addictions, who will train to be Baristas and Chefs. We will help them to achieve their level 1, 2 and 3 Food Hygiene Certification and we will also send them for formal paid Barista training on top of what we can offer them in our food truck at How Wood. As we get busier and open more locations and maybe start doing deliveries we hope to be able to create employment for people we have trained.
Dealing with the general public is a BIG deal for people have lived in seclusion in a tent in the woods or who have suffered in ways that cause them to be reclusive, so even being a cashier our taking food and drinks orders with us – in a friendly and safe environment could help them gain significant confidence.
Tell us about you!
I grew up in North London – always wanted to be a chef. I worked hard to open my first restaurant in London aged 26 – by 28 years of age I had another restaurant and an event company. Some years ago I had cancer and had spinal surgery which left me in a wheelchair for 3 years – so I sold my restaurants and focused on planning and catering national and international events. We used to plan and cater at least 50 weddings per year and I was the International Events organiser for In-N-Out Burger and ran around 40 pop ups all over the world for them. 3 years ago I became the British BBQ Champion Peoples Vote Winner at Blenheim Palace and so we hope to start going grills and BBQ’s at How Wood!!! I was chair of an aviation charity for disabled adults and children and ran flying days for terminally ill children (Noah’s Ark Hospice) and for Young adults with learning disabilities.
Tyson is just 20 years and has suffered with homelessness. He has not had the opportunities that a lot of youngsters of his age have – but he cares deeply about others who are in his position and he deeply wants to help others as we both do. Tyson is now a company director of Wood You Social Enterprises Ltd. He personally has designed all posters, logos and artwork and all the design of the Food Truck and all drinks menus have been done by him.
Are there plans for expansion?
Oh definitely – we really hope that this is only the start for us – we are already taking over as caterers At Bricket Wood Social Club and will start by doing barbecues there every Sunday and in winter, high quality Sunday roasts in the restaurant upstairs (full three course meals and menus). We are also currently booked for 2 weddings this year and a huge summer 20’s themed Jazz party in Totteridge Lane in the summer and a few other small events too. We will do anything food and drink wise if it gives opportunities to our participants and enables to get funds in that we can use to enhance people’s lives.
Tyson and I just want to thank the very good and kind people of Park Street (and How Wood and Bricket Wood) for giving us SUCH a warm welcome and being so supportive and generous in spirit. None of this would have been possible without the help and support of Carolina Brennan owner of The Anti Aging Clinic and Enhance Beauty who persuaded us to be in How Wood and gave us a gorgeous home.