Heidi goes from barrister to barista

Ex barrister Heidi Cotton, has set up Broom Wagon cycling cafe
Ex barrister Heidi Cotton, has set up Broom Wagon cycling cafe
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A former legal eagle has swapped the law for lattes. Colin Drury meets her...

They are two jobs which may sound alike in name but as career changes go, it must have taken some beans.

Heidi Cotton has gone from barrister to barista.

The one-time Sheffield legal eagle has swapped the courtroom for a cafe serving coffee. She’s hung up her wig and gown and instead slipped on an apron and smile to open her own drinks destination out of the city in the north Nottinghamshire idyll of Retford.

These days the only benches she’s concerning herself with are her outlet’s sheek, vintage tables.

“It’s an unusual career choice but I’d decided I wanted a change,” she explains today. “I was at a crossroads where I knew I needed to choose between sticking as a lawyer for the next 20 years, or doing something which I really wanted to put my energies into. You spend so much of your life working and I wanted to do something I was passionate about.”

So she and husband Richard opened the cafe, called Broom Wagon. The first day was back in March and a word-of-mouth buzz about the place has been, well, percolating ever since.

Now, ahead of this weekend’s Tour de France, that buzz is set to get even louder. That’s because the cafe sells itself as something of a cycling venue with secure indoor bike storage, velo-themed artwork and a menu which emphasis the caffeine, carbs and sugar hits which such energetic customers need. Two-wheeler clubs from as far afield as Lincolnshire have made it their home away from home, while others have regularly peddled in from Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

“We came to the conclusion the idea of the velo cafe was really strong,” says 38-year-old Heidi, who spent 15 years working her way up the criminal law ladder before finishing with Bank House chambers, based in Hartshead, city centre. “We liked the idea of catering for groups of people who like to hang out together. That was far more exciting than sticking at the law. I knew that if I hadn’t done this and then in five years I had walked round a corner and seen somebody else’s cycle cafe I would have been gutted.”

And the mother-of-two, of Blyth, has no regrets about the pay cut and long hours which come with opening one’s own business.

“It’s physically harder but not as stressful,” she says. “I no longer have to worry about the consequences for others like I did when I was a barrister. It’s a learning curve but I’m loving it.”