Harris + Hoole

Given the choice I’d rather have a shop where I could buy a gallon of paraffin, a box of chisels and a bucket of whitewash but it is not to be. Despite being told otherwise St Margarets is about to get itself another coffee house. How many does that make it so far? 10?

The old Superdrug store, once tastefully wrapped up in brown paper, is about to become a trendy watering hole called ‘Harris and Hoole’ serving what the owners describe as… “fantastic tasting, professionally crafted, speciality grade, directly sourced coffee” to ‘happy people’! Unfortunately some of the people in St Margarets are not happy at all.

 The Tolleys

The name, ‘Harris and Hoole’ and their promotion style suggest that it is an independent venture run by a couple of well meaning hippies inspired by a particularly pleasant weekend in Paris but this is far from the case. Although its website states that Harris and Hoole is a family affair originally set up by Australian siblings Nick, Andrew and Laura Tolley it is in fact an expanding chain that is 49% owned by Tesco… and despite being non-controlling minority owners Tesco has some ambitious plans.

“We’ve always been upfront about our investment in Harris + Hoole, and so have Harris + Hoole. We like backing great brands, helping them to grow and to realise their potential. We’ve done it with suppliers for years. Great ideas can find it hard to get backing these days, so we’re pleased to be in a position to help entrepreneurs achieve their vision.”

PHILIP CLARK (Tesco Chief Executive) - Jan 8th 2013

And part of that vision is to install Harris and Hoole coffee shops in Tesco stores…

“When the Tolleys are ready, we will put them into some of our stores. They will have proved that their brand and their offer work, that customers like it and it will be another reason for customers to shop with us.”

PHILIP CLARK (Tesco Chief Executive) - Jan 8th 2013

(By the way - what is the name of that busy ‘Express’ store virtually next door to the old Superdrug site - and sharing a common dividing wall to the rear?)

Despite Philip Clark’s claim that customers like the Tesco/Harris and Hoole arrangement, on the 2nd January 2013 the Guardian reported otherwise…

“I like to try independent shops, and it was really very nice with great coffee. But when I got home, I looked it up and discovered it was a chain.”


“I avoid Starbucks because it’s a big chain and it avoids tax…Now I find this is Tesco … It looks like a small indie. It is disingenuous. It makes me upset. I feel duped.”


“I don’t really like Tesco. I don’t shop in Tesco. Now I’m in one of them. They’ll probably be on every high street soon. I would avoid it, like I avoid Starbucks and Costa, which I thought I was doing today - putting money back in the community.”


Harris and Hoole deny that they are trying to hide their close association with Tesco. After some searching you can find the following on their website…

“To be able to provide the high street with fantastic coffee takes investment and backing, and few people know the high street better than Tesco - who have made a non-controlling investment in the new business to allow the Tolleys to realise their dream.”


A recent article in the Daily Mail supports the association…

Cup of coffee

“This is a family business who have had the good fortune to be financially backed by a very large company. The founder states that Tesco are a financial backer with no control over the running of the business, so why you feel the need to describe the coffee as a Tesco product I have no idea.”

Nick Tolley, one of the founding executives of the chain, goes further. He says that Harris and Hoole are “trying to create a shop that’s local to the community”. He adds that localism is so important that one of store managers’ key performance indicators used to determine the level of bonus payments would be based on the “extent to which they are part of the community”. He said: “The intention is to have the values of an independent, and behave like an independent.”

THE GUARDIAN Jan 2nd 2013

We shall see. As for me I’m off to find a box of chisels… independently.

Samuel Pepys Henry Harris

The name, Harris and Hoole, was conceived by branding company ‘SomeOne’. They borrowed the idea from two friends of Samuel Pepys - the actor and engraver, Henry Harris and William Hoole who Pepys first met at Magdalene College, Oxford. They are both briefly mentioned in Pepy’s Diary…

“Feb. 3rd, 1664. In Covent Garden to-night, going to fetch home my wife, I stopped at the great Coffee-house there, where I never was before: Where Dryden the poet (I knew at Cambridge), and all the wits of the town, and Harris the player, and Mr Hoole of our College. And had I had time then, or could at other times, it will be good coming thither, for there, I perceive, is very witty and pleasant discourse. But I could not tarry, and as it was late, they were all ready to go away.”

– from Martyn Day