A flurry of independent businesses are springing up around Boston’s old market square and breathing new life into the town after the pandemic. Among these is The Greenhouse, a coffee shop that has brought some spice and variety to the local scene. You will find a warm welcome here along with a creative menu featuring a host of alternative specialties, from beetroot lattes to toasties made with homemade chilli jam.
The Greenhouse is run by Dan and Lee Revell-Wiseman, a local couple who have quickly developed a passion for Boston since moving into town two years ago. Their love for plants and dogs has inspired the coffee shop concept, which is proving to be popular with visitors.
We dropped in to The Greenhouse to take a closer look. Dan spoke with us about the story behind its inception, the camaraderie they have built with local suppliers, and why independent businesses like theirs will be the way of the future for Boston.
Setting down roots in Boston
Lee and Dan had both worked in customer-facing roles in the past, but it was some out-of-the-box thinking that seeded the concept for The Greenhouse.
“I used to work in the hospitality industry, but Lee is very much a creative,” explains Dan. “He worked as a hair colourist, and he has an instinct and artistic flair that he applies to our décor and alternative ideas.”
The couple moved to Boston in 2020 after Dan’s parents had moved to nearby Kirton. “When the pandemic hit, we had already spoken about making the move out of London and the home counties,” Dan explains. “After the first lockdown we just said ‘let’s make the move and pick up the pieces later’.
“We really liked the architecture and history of Boston. And we always liked the feel for Church Street, which is where the business now is.”
From toastie van to coffee shop
The Greenhouse was not their first foray into running a food business. Lee had previously realised a long-time dream of opening a gourmet toastie van, only to find his client base shattered by the pandemic.
New times called for a different approach. “We looked around the town and noticed the vacant premises around Church Street, which we loved,” says Dan. “So we spoke about what to do and the concept began to come together.”
“We believe that the town will keep changing with more independents opening, which we are beginning to see.”
Church Street is a cobbled road tucked away just behind the market square, with the tower of the Boston Stump peeking out above. It was once full of bustling businesses, but one by one they began to close over the years, leaving empty shells of old shops, cafés and mini-markets.
Lee and Dan are among the creative entrepreneurs now leading the revival of this area of town, which has so much potential. But designing a coffee shop is a tricky business, and they needed a theme that would stand out.
“We tried to combine a few of Lee’s passions, such as house plants, and his creative flair,” Dan says. “We spent time looking at local businesses and saw that there didn’t seem to be much of an offering in terms of alternatives, whether that be vegan or gluten free, or even coffee alternatives in general.
“There also did not appear to be anywhere you could take your dog while out for a walk.”
A polaroid dog wall
As dog owners and animal lovers themselves, it was a natural decision for Lee and Dan to make The Greenhouse a dog-friendly place. This was also spurred by their own experiences with dogs around town.
“We have three French Bulldogs – Elsie, Ethel and Huxley. We found that when we moved here there were very few places to take them when on a walk if we wanted a coffee or cake,” says Dan.
“We realise how many people love their dogs and appreciate taking them somewhere that welcomes them, particularly following the increase of dog ownership during the pandemic.”
Every dog that comes into The Greenhouse is captured on an in-house polaroid camera and the picture added to the dog wall. It’s a feature that is ever-evolving and adds an infectious charm to the décor.
Dan continues: “We also have four ducks, 24 chickens and three cats, but I think making the coffee house friendly for any of these may be a step too far!”
Getting to know the community of local suppliers
Lee and Dan may be relatively new to Boston, but they have been made to feel at home by the people they have met along their business journey.
The majority of fruit and vegetables they use comes from Brandon’s Fruit, a Boston Market stall that has been running for decades is now in the third generation of the same family. Last year the stall was named Boston Market Trader of the Year.
“Ally, Daisy and Kelly were always so friendly and welcoming when we moved to the area, and Lee began supplying them with his homemade chilli jam last year,” says Dan. “We have become firm friends and they now supply The Greenhouse.
“Daisy also works for us part time. Brandon’s ethos is to provide quality fruit and vegetables, as well as products that are a bit different, such as herb-infused oils and alternatives to honey such as dandelion vegan honey.”
Coffee at The Greenhouse is supplied by Stokes of Lincoln. “Wherever possible, we have tried to be local,” says Dan. “We use Mountains Boston Sausage Butchers who supply our meat products, established in the area in 1852.
“We also use Boston Market Garden who supply us with some of our small leaf and micro greens. It is run by our neighbour Tom, who moved to the area around the same time we did from the home counties. Tom is restoring a three-acre market garden back to its former glory, which runs behind our garden.”
A menu full of creativity
Lee’s homemade chilli jam has sold well online and at Brandon’s Fruits, and is the basis for some of the most popular menu items at The Greenhouse.
“It is used in or served with many of our toasties,” says Dan. “Such as the Boston sausage, chilli jam and spinach toastie – one of our best-sellers – and the brie, blackberry and basil toastie or mozzarella, pesto and sun-kissed tomato toastie, which are both excellent vegetarian options and can be made gluten free.”
“Tastes are changing, and offering something a little different has proved advantageous.”
But it is the selection of lattes that has perhaps been the biggest hit among customers. I tried the turmeric latte to wash down my delicious Maltesers brownie. Full of spice and flavour, it’s the perfect refreshing pick-me-up between a morning’s sightseeing or shopping.
“We have had a really good response,” says Dan. “Lots of compliments on the décor and flavour combinations, and the beetroot latte particularly has caused a stir. People have come in and said that they have read about it, or have been recommended; it is particularly good with coconut milk.
“We have also had some lovely comments about the location and breathing new life into Church Street, which had looked a bit sad over the last few years as most units were empty. However, a few new businesses have now opened on the street in the last six months or so.”
Looking to the future in uncertain times
Business at The Greenhouse has gotten off to a strong start. But as newcomers to both the area and the world of hospitality ownership, Lee and Dan cannot be sure about what to expect in the years ahead.
“We do strongly believe that people appreciate quality products,” says Dan. “Tastes are changing, and offering something a little different has proved advantageous. We are optimistic for the future.
“The cost of living crisis at the moment is a bit worrying, but we do try to be as cost-effective as possible. We strongly believe in supporting independents, and this has been shared with our customer base.”
The signs are good for the future of the town, which continues to grow and diversify. And independent businesses like The Greenhouse can be its driving force.
“We love Boston,” says Dan. “It has a very rich history, and clearly had a lot of wealth in its past. We believe that the town will keep changing with more independents opening, which we are beginning to see.
“There are a variety of old smaller shops, which would not suit chains, but certainly suit independent business owners likes ours who benefit from business rate exemptions. Significant investment is also coming for the market square behind us, and more generally in the area.”
What next for The Greenhouse?
Lee and Dan are riding a wave of enthusiasm after such a successful opening, and dream of growing further. “We hope that the shop will go from strength to strength this year, and hope that we can take on more staff,” says Dan.
“We are also hopeful that The Greenhouse Chilli Jam will win a Taste Award this year. It has already been entered and we are just waiting for the judging day.
“Longer term, it would be nice to expand, and have a bigger premises to experiment more with flavours and more complex dishes.”
See our article on things to do in Boston for more places to see, eat and drink around the town.
Discover more insights into what goes on behind the scenes in Lincolnshire hospitality businesses in our story series.