CB2 gets ready to Thrive in new sustainable eco-hub
The CB2 cafe area on the corner of Norfolk Street and East Road is set to become one of Cambridge’s most sustainable retail sectors, with plant-based diner Thrive due to open in spring and The Serpentine Swap and Full Circle already trading.
Last year the site was taken over by hire-by-the-hour flexible retail operator Sook. After launching the Sook platform in The Grafton, Sook’s founder John Hoyle has let the premises to the three new eco-conscious retail organisations.
The Thrive team consists of James Green, Ryan Smith, Darren Green, Karina Rivedeneira and Jeremy Peters.
“It was James’ idea,” says Jeremy at the diner during a break between refurbishing. “He wanted to open a plant-based business with delicious food and a great environment. It’s been two years in the making, searching for venues, then this opportunity came up through a chance conversation with a lady supplying plants to the pop-up shop next door.”
James adds: “I work in hospitality. I manage hotels, and I wanted to venture into running my own place.”
“It’ll be a café during the day,” adds Jeremy, whose expertise is in marketing – and photography. “We’ll be doing breakfast, lunch, snacks, takeaways, and a bistro with an alcohol licence in the evening offering a range of craft beers.”
The premises is being extensively refitted but the interior layout, including uptairs and basement facilities, will remain in use.
“We estimate we’ll need 25 staff including casuals,” adds James, “so we’re looking for local employees. We’ll be open seven days a week, 8am to 10pm, daily except Christmas Day.”
“It’ll look like an urban jungle,” Jeremy says of the design, “with lots of green – but being friendly is the most important thing. Thrive is a way of changing things – that’s what’s happening here.”
Meanwhile, next door – accessible via a doorway from Thrive – Rachael Victoria is running The Serpentine Swap with her colleague Emily Hamilton. The premises is home to a fantastical range of bright, eye-catching garments at remarkably low prices – and boasts an unusual exchange model for trading vintage clothing.
“I started at Cambridge market in June 2018, doing something similar,” Rachael says. “People bring in old clothes and I’d give them a discount for the range on sale.”
Getting credit for other clothes means you can rotate your wardrobe for a low outlay – and get to wear some rather unique items. Plus you’re not contributing to fast fashion.
“Mainly we focus on the 1960s to the 1990s,” Rachael says. “People nowadays want ’90s stuff – sportswear, denim, branded T-shirts, though personally I love the fabrics, print and embroidery from the 1960s.”
Rachael was born in Colchester but spent ten years in the US before moving to Cambridge.
“I spent all my teens in California where obviously there’s a lot of thrift stores there,” she says, “and that was the inspiration behind The Serpentine Swap and there’s nowhere else quite like it, especially with so many students and such a variety of people.
“In the market it was mostly students but we’re trying to broaden that by opening it up to more of a community thing. I like the idea of there being a recycling hub here. The Full Circle shop is open and there’s Thrive, which is plant-based – we’ve all got a similar ethos behind us, which is slowing down a bit and nurturing what you have here.”
The Full Circle shop is based behind The Serpentine Swap, so you walk past Rachael to get there. Rachael is good at spreading the word and it’s working becue other services can be bolted on. For instance, repairs and alterations are also on the menu at The Serpentine Swap – the name, by the way, she says is “for me more about shedding skins – getting rid of old skins and finding new skins, it works both ways”.
“We have a seamstress, Rebecka Irene, who can do any sort of alteration.” Just take the items along, they don’t need to have been bought at the shop.
“Another thing that’s quite cool is the Anglia Ruskin University sustainable fashion show, they’ll use all clothes from here for their catwalk show.”
ARU’s first sustainable fashion show is due on April 3, as part of its inaugural sustainable fashion week – though confirmation it will take place is awaited.
“They asked us to pitch all the items which is quite exciting,” notes Rachael.
The Serpentine Swap is open six days a week (closed Monday) from 10am to 6pm.