One of Southsea’s most popular cafes celebrates an interesting decade in the catering business

From left, Hannah Youell, Jodie Ross, Joanne Bleach, Lucie Gomolova, Sinead Wellham and Khaleda Brophy Picture: Malcolm Wells (170125-5523)
From left, Hannah Youell, Jodie Ross, Joanne Bleach, Lucie Gomolova, Sinead Wellham and Khaleda Brophy Picture: Malcolm Wells (170125-5523)
Picture: Stephen Kelly/PA Wire

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HE AND his team have been serving up tasty breakfasts and delicious lunches for the past 10 years – and cafe owner Grahame Heke says it’s been a great decade.

Grahame runs Smile Cafe in Marmion Road, Southsea, with his wife Sheena.

Grahame and Sheena Heke 
Picture: Malcolm Wells (170125-5543)

Grahame and Sheena Heke Picture: Malcolm Wells (170125-5543)

In November, 2015, the cafe was gutted after a fire took hold in the kitchen. But the resilient pair took it in their stride and set about the tough job of rebuilding their business – which they now say is better than ever.

Grahame, from Portchester, said: ‘We had only just had the cafe redecorated when the fire started three days after we opened.

‘There were three fire engines here and about 20 firemen. All the neighbours had to be evacuated, but the fire brigade were good, they got it sorted. It took us five weeks to undo the damage. We had to completely redo the kitchen and the insurance took five months to pay out. It was a tough time, but we bounced back.’

Grahame, 57, and Sheena, 56, opened the cafe on February 21, 2007, after running a meals on wheels service together for the previous 19 years. Prior to this, Grahame was a roofer and Sheena a hairdresser, but the couple say they found their calling when a friend who ran a care home encouraged them to venture into the catering industry.

‘It was our calling and I think we do quite well at it now. It was trial and error at the beginning, but now we have got it down to a fine art,’ said Grahame.

Since the cafe opened, the couple, who have been together for nearly 38 years, have worked every day together – often sharing the small, hot cafe kitchen.

Sheena joked: ‘I think we deserve a medal to work together and be together 24/7, especially in that small kitchen. People say they don’t know how we do it.’

The cafe employs 10 staff members, including their daughter Jodie Cross, 36.

Jodie said: ‘I have worked with them since I was 16. I’ve had other jobs but always come back because it’s so much better working for them. It’s great, we are a real team.’

Grahame said the cafe’s success was down to his hard-working staff – but they all have to meet the strict criteria of living up to the cafe’s name.

‘Nobody likes to see a sad face,’ he said.

The cafe is open seven days a week, serving all-day breakfasts with a choice of meat, vegan or veggie, home-cooked lunches, sandwiches, toasties and a Sunday roast, also with a vegan option.