The Hudson’s Years
Tim Penrose had been in one job since leaving school – funeral directing. Whilst he had toyed with the idea of pursuing a new career in radio, he was aware that he probably didn’t have the discipline to work again for someone else. His father’s example as a greengrocer of the highest quality comestibles with an honourable reputation, suggested the inevitability of Penrose eventually running his own business.
In his later years of funeral directing, Penrose worked closely with Sandy Fraser from the stockbroking partnership of Phillips and Drew. This entailed frequent trips to London with regular meetings at one of the early Costa outlets in Baker Street. Penrose was obsessed with the “fantastic coffee and prawn sandwiches” and considered how he might offer the same coffee and sandwiches in Birmingham.
Six months later Penrose was at the top of the most prestigious shopping centre in Birmingham, trying to work out how to put his offer together. It turned out to be exceedingly more challenging than expected, but he persevered. By March 1991 Hudson’s Coffee House had been trading for four months and made it through the teething troubles of establishing a new small business. Penrose continued to refine the customer experience and recruited waiting staff from fine hotels. Adam Austin came to Hudson’s from The Savoy. Both he and Richard Holmes Smith were instrumental in Hudson’s success.
The style of service continued to develop; gourmet sandwiches, unusual ingredients, bone china and tail coated waiters – it all had a magical formula that struck a chord with Birmingham’s business oriented clientelle. Expansion followed in late 1991, again in 1993 and then out of the blue came an award from Egon Ronay. His team had been compiling a list of the best tea houses in the United Kingdom for their guide and had decided that after only two years of trading (with zero previous experience) Hudson’s merited a mention. Not only that, but amongst the hundreds of entries, Hudson’s was declared the best!
A gourmet food shop was attached to the coffee house in 1997. In 1998 another publication – “In Search Of Great Coffee” sought to list the world’s best coffee houses and Hudson’s was featured on the front cover. “Perhaps we are the best in the world?” Penrose pondered to his wife Ruth. “Why not?” was the reply.
In the years since, Penrose has developed, opened and consulted with many coffee houses, always intent on great food, sourcing exclusive items and bringing a sense of fun and personality to customer service. Hudson’s continued in business for 15 years and was then sold to tackle new challenges in the horticulture field. But it was Penrose’s first and most special business and would always be remembered fondly – “a tradition of excellence”.