Jordan Addison, Owner of G!RO
Even if you’re not a cyclist, then you’ve probably still heard of G!RO – the Esher café that’s become renowned for serving, supporting and building a local community of both cyclists and non-cyclists. But how and why did it start, and what’s the connection between community work and coffee? Jordan Addison, its owner, reveals all here.
It’s hard to believe, but we’ll be 10 years old in October.
Back then, when my co-founder Neil Goodman and I launched G!RO, we didn’t have a clue. We simply took a risk and figured it out as we went. We knew we wanted to serve coffee and food, which was relatively easy to learn, but the rest of it – running a business, managing people and dealing with suppliers – was a much steeper learning curve.
But even now, 10 years on, the main premise on which G!RO was built remains the same. From day one, we wanted to create a safe and comfortable environment where, regardless of whether or not you’re in a cycling club and irrespective of what you wear, you immediately felt valued as a member of the G!RO community.
Creating and shaping communities has always been important to me. It stems from what I did prior to opening G!RO, which was community work. I studied music at university and played bass, but I quickly realised that I didn’t have the drive required to make it in the music industry. So, I ended up in video production, which was when I started working with young people. I’d use creative media to engage young people, mainly teenagers, and create positive places for them to thrive in.
I’ve always been excited and passionate about community and the positive impact it can have on people. Sadly, we live in a society that likes to cut people off, so I’m interested in anything that can be done to make environments more inclusive - and less exclusive.
After four years in community work, I decided to pursue other ventures. As a keen cyclist that was becoming increasingly frustrated with the exclusive nature of cycling clubs, I wanted to create something that was completely open-hearted. It also had to be in Esher High Street, which is now known as the Olympic Corridor for its ability to link London’s cyclists with the best of Surrey’s green spaces.
People questioned our decision to launch G!RO at first, saying that the high street was in decline. But whilst retail may be, the high street is a place where people can come to connect. We wanted to bring together like-minded people in a warm, neutral setting and see what happens. As it turns out, we’ve created a space that people want to visit and make a part of their day, which is hugely rewarding and still fills me with a sense of pride even after 10 years.
These days, we don’t just sell coffee and food, but also bikes and merchandise, too. Our bike partner, Curve, is a brand that not only creates incredibly good quality, titanium frame bikes, but their team has the same ethos as the team at G!RO.
Over the years, some of my customers have become genuine friends and quite often, despite G!RO requiring most of my time, it doesn’t feel like work. Of course, there are times when it does, but I’m fortunate to have a great team behind me, which now includes two excellent mechanics and a combination of 10 full time and part time café employees.
Had I known how much hard work would be involved before I opened the doors, I may have thought twice. But I’m so glad I didn’t as it’s such a wonderful privilege to see a busy café, or a bunch of cyclists heading off on a ride, knowing that you’ve created something that people are proud to be a part of. There really is nothing like it.
G!RO. 2 High St, Esher KT10 9RT