The Heart of the Community

This article is part of the Our CQ Winter Edition. To read the online edition click here.

Bob & Berts have a strong sense of community in everything they do from sporting sponsorships to charity fundraising.

Bob & Berts is at the heart of Coleraine – literally! The extremely popular coffee shop, situated in The Diamond, is more importantly set firmly in the heart of the local community, an ethos founders Colin McLean and David Ferguson wanted for the business from day one.

“When we first started Bob & Berts I was very keen to make sure everyone felt welcome right from the elderly lady in the morning calling in for a cup of tea and scone right through to the school kids in the afternoon with the milkshakes,” explained Colin.

“I was keen to make sure we ticked all the boxes for the people who come here so it was very community focused from the beginning.”

Bob & Berts currently sponsor 65 sports teams across their 28 stores including Coleraine.

“One thing I’m really into is kids sport so as a company we spend about £50,000 a year on kids sport,” continued Colin.

“In Coleraine we sponsor Coleraine Football Club Youths and we sponsor the training gear of every team there. We sponsor Coleraine Grammar First XV, Second XV and Medallion rugby teams and we also sponsor the girls hockey there as well along with Coleraine Ladies Under-15 hockey team.

“The Heights Football Club came to us a few months ago and said we don’t have any money to start out so we bought them the kit. That’s one thing I’m really focussed on is making sure kids can play sport and look as professional as they can in this local area.

“Some kids’ parents can’t afford to go out and buy a kit which can cost up to £100 so if Bob & Bert’s can sponsor it then we are doing what we set out to do.”

The generosity Bob & Berts has shown to local sports clubs is paid in kind as many of the youngsters come into the Coleraine store for breakfast or brunch with friends or their parents.

Colin added: “We also sponsor a player of  the week at Coleraine Football Club and that player gets a £5 voucher which gets him a hot chocolate and a bun so they always come in on a Saturday. We really wanted Bob & Berts to be accessible to the whole community and we are really focussed on making sure kids are looked after.”

The local runners also get involved in Bob & Berts exploits as they sponsor the Run the Race series.

“About six or seven years ago there was a run around Portrush for what is called Sports Academy George and the money goes to underprivileged kids in South Africa,” commented Colin.

“At that stage they had a couple of hundred people doing it and they wanted to partner up with someone. As Bob & Berts is very involved in the community we decided to get on board and we have sponsored it for the past five years and given approximately £100,000 to that charity through that run.

“We now have a series of runs – the North Coast 5km and 10km, we also do one now in Omagh, Belfast, North Down and Groomsport. It’s great because we have seen where the money goes and the change it makes to kids’ lifestyles.”

You only have to step inside Bob & Berts any day of the week and you will see a diverse mix of people from all walks of life enjoying the warm and welcoming atmosphere, something Colin is very proud of.

“We have been going for nine years and a lot of our customers have been with us for all nine of those years and have been through all sorts of life experiences – marriages, births, deaths. “Many people, the first time they come out of the house with their new born baby, they come to Bob & Berts for a coffee. We have seen that lifecycle and it’s really cool to see it filter down.

“We love the fact that our age profile ranges from very young to old and subsequently our menu has developed to tick all the boxes – from traditional poached eggs on toast to nutella stuffed French toast for the kids. It’s all about making it the family place that it needs to be.

Bob & Berts tenth anniversary is in June 2023 and their passion for ‘proper coffee and great grub combined with a strong community bond shows no sign of slowing down with 28 shops across the UK. 

“We opened the first shop in Portstewart in June 2013 and thought that would be it,” said Colin. “Then we opened the Coleraine store and it has snowballed since then. We just opened in Carlisle, our fifth english store and we have sponsored two schools so already we are building the bond with Bob & Berts and the community.

“Our plan is to have 30 stores by next year and we will bring together all our staff in one central location to celebrate 10 years of Bob & Berts.

“There is the same demand across all of our stores, the same community spirit and that was the one thing we set out to be – at the heart of the community.”