It’s trailblazing treats and local eats at Pimperne, where visitors are enjoying the transformation of a cowshed into a bustling community hub
There’s a buzz of activity around LO’s Coffee Shop and Bar in Pimperne. A new wooden floor is being laid, there’s a stream of customers picking up coffees and dog walkers stroll past. The magnificent views of the Dorset Downs from the car park are enough to tempt anyone.
‘This was the cowshed,’ laughs Laurie Griffin as she points out the indoor space she will get once the new floor is fitted. When I visit, the inside space isn’t quite finished (it’s now open), and LO’s is still an outdoor-only coffee shop. We sit in the welcoming – and surprisingly warm – sheltered outdoor space, where plenty of blankets are available if they’re needed.
‘The name LO’s is my nickname. Everyone calls me Lo. It’s stuck with me since I was small – actually low!
‘We opened in May 2023 – I was using the gym next door, which has 1,200 members, and I could see that something was really needed here for people to meet up. So I asked the owner, Alan Lukins, if I could start a cafe. The Lukins family was very supportive. I worked in Formula One for 15 years before moving to Dorset. I soon fell in love with the local produce and worked in the Dorset food and drink gift industry, running a successful hamper company for around seven years before I decided on a new challenge. The cafe has really brought people together – it is lovely to be able to make a difference to the community.’
A local pit stop
Laurie ensures the cafe makes the most of the surrounding countryside and there are maps on its website with suggested routes for walkers and dog walking. All the trails naturally start and end at Lo’s Cafe, and there’s a walk for everyone, ranging from one to six miles. Many are suitable for mobility scooters too. Some trails lead to the Pimperne Long Barrow, others head towards Pimperne Woods. Naturally, the dogs aren’t forgotten at the cafe, with canine treats too.
‘We had 50 dogs here from a dog walking club in Bournemouth last weekend. The dogs took their humans for a walk and they all ended up here! When we first started, 300 cyclists came through – we were one of the pit stops on a 200-mile cycling route. Cycling clubs come here because they can park, order their lunches and then go off and do their cycling.
Laurie’s team has grown swiftly. ‘I was keen to create jobs for local people – in six months I’ve created 12 jobs. Some are from the village and some work on breaks from uni. I look for people who will contribute to a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. I also have young people who are in their first job, learning life skills. Some of them are really creative.
‘For example, one of the team created an iced coffee called the Ginny Whip (a coffee base with a creamy top). It’s really popular.
‘We have a simple menu which we concentrate on doing well. Our bestsellers are, unsurprisingly, the coffee and cake*. Our cakes are made locally in Bridport and Blandford Forum. Our coffee is coasted in Winterborne Whitechurch. The ice creams are from Baboo Gelato in Dorchester, and we also have ciders from Cranborne Chase Cider, which is just up the road.
‘Starting completely from scratch has been quite a challenge – I’ve given it everything, working seven days a week. However, the support from Alan and Rob Lukins here at the farm has been fantastic. They really want to bring people together and create something for the community.
People are amazed when they see me sweeping up or putting out the bins but I’ve always been a grafter. I’m not afraid of hard work.’
Doing what they want
‘But starting from scratch is also the thing I’m most proud of! The local people have been so supportive. One of them helped design the walking map, and someone else is making me knitted cup holders for the winter. The members of the team who are in their first jobs say it’s lovely to work in such a friendly place. The village needs somewhere like this to come together.’
The business seems to have taken off magnificently in the last six months. So what’s next?
‘We’re currently developing the inside area of the cafe – we already have a 70th birthday party booking! We have a Christmas market. We’re raising money for Teddy20 with a father Christmas event, and we have some organised dog walks scheduled. I’ve also been talking to the youngest members of the team because we’d like to do something for the 16 to 18 year olds here. Covid really affected that age group. They come to the gym but there’s nowhere else for them to go in the village. We’d like to work out what they would like – pizzas or live music maybe. Just see what we can do in the space. It’s just such a lovely place, and everyone gets on with each other.’
- Open seven days a week 9am to 4pm
•See the website for details of all events.
•Find LO’s at R Lukins Fitness, Stud Farm, Pimperne, Blandford Forum DT11 8XA
(*rest assured the cappuccino cake has been dutifully tested for readers of the BV Magazine. Can confirm, it is delicious – RR)