Thursday, February 28, 2013

S.D. Bell's is Jamming on Sundays

Just the other day a fan of S.D. Bell’s from Belfast wrote the following on our Facebook wall:
“Going to enjoy a cup of tea at S D Bells, nearly 13 years to the day I moved to Northern Ireland with my family. Feeling a little nervous and excited, as soon as I walked into S D Bells, for the first time I felt this could be my home.”

I think that’s about as bottom line a statement you can make about a place. She was feeling alone in a strange new place but the warmth of S.D. Bell’s café provided real comfort. It’s something we here often about the place – it’s a Belfast institution with many regulars. While none of us at Best International Tea has been there, we all look forward to a visit someday.

Many in Belfast find S.D. Bell to be a source of great comfort, as it remains a constant – yet Robert and his team have found ways to embrace new ideas without sacrificing history. One of these new ideas came about in September 2009 when Robert introduced the Java Jive Jazz Brunch on Sunday’s at the Leaf & Berry Bar. Of course opening the store on Sundays would have been unheard of in Samuel David’s day, but Robert felt if he had a good reason to have Sunday hours, it would be worthwhile.

Robert teamed up with Linley Hamilton, a local jazz performer and broadcaster, to launch the Java Jive weekly brunch from 11 am to 3 pm on Sundays. Advertising in the jazz press, social media and word of mouth resulted in a packed house almost every Sunday. It’s not bad for the staff either - as Barry noted that it’s a lot more fun to do his usual Sunday afternoon task of blending and packing teas with good music and buzzing conversation in the background.

Hamilton has been impressed with Robert’s dedication to the jazz community. S.D. Bell’s welcomes bands and musicians from throughout Belfast, many of whom lacked opportunities to showcase their musical talent. From newly-discovered talents to significant artists in the UK jazz scene, S.D. Bell’s has opened its doors to a wide range of artists, allowing them to be creative and collaborate in ways they might not otherwise have the opportunity to do. Java Jive is an all-around success - it’s good for S.D. Bell’s business, it’s good for the public and it’s good for the musicians. Hamilton describes S.D. Bell’s café as “one of the most significant venues for jazz that Belfast has seen in the last 25 years,” and “a jewel in the crown of the live music scene.”

Sounds like a more than worthy reason to open for a few hours on Sundays!

The outside of S.D. Bell & Co. with signs for the store and Leaf & Berry Bar. A sandwich board advertises live piano music on Friday afternoons!

The storefront at S.D. Bell & Co, where you can purchase freshly-blended teas and house-roasted coffees

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