Gabi and Flavia are two friends who successfully run the Union Coffee & Dough coffee truck together in Apsley Marina, Hemel Hempstead. It is a bijou truck that has become a fixture in the marina over the last couple of years, but now they are expanding by converting an empty retail space, just a few steps away from their truck, into a new coffee shop that they hope will be at the heart of the local community. They are Crowdfunding to support this new venture and currently have nearly £7000 raised to support their initiative. I interviewed Gabi to find out what motivated them to open their coffee truck, the impact on the community and about the plans for the new coffee shop.


I learned that Gabi and Flavia originally just enjoyed baking for their families, but this later changed when they started baking and delivering bread, specifically sourdough bread. They did this as, according to Gabi, “We realised there was nowhere, locally, to get sourdough bread, which we think is a healthier bread”. They have since expanded to other delicious baked goods which, when asked on how they learnt to make them, Gabi replied, “We started watching YouTube videos to learn how to make them, and it was mainly trial and error until we got it right. All the food we sell is homemade and we are still learning from others, like Mary Berry. It is trial and error, we learn from our mistakes.”

However, the coffee truck doesn’t only serve food and coffee but also a sense of camaraderie. Gabi commented that, “It has become a hub. People come and talk to us and each other. During Covid, people were lonely and isolated, the truck became a place they could come and chat. We joke that there should be one queue for coffee and one for counselling. Now, many people still work from home, and we have become their daily contact. The dynamics of the community changed a lot due to Covid.” In doing so they have made a great positive impact on the community as people recognise it as a place where they can go and be greeted with a warm welcome but that isn’t all as they also “try and use local suppliers for our products. For example, the meat is from the Kings Langley Butchers and the coffee beans from Smith’s coffee in Apsley. We want to be part of the community and in the future take part in more community events.”

As they are expanding their business from a coffee truck into a coffee shop, I was curious on how their customers responded to this news. Gabi enthusiastically responded to my query, “People love the idea. They are happy that we can expand and offer a place for them to sit and chill while having a coffee and a bite to eat. However, many customers also like the truck, as it is in an open space where they can easily grab and go. We have a lot of dog walker customers. We will keep the truck operating for the Summer and see how it goes from there.”

I followed up by inquiring on why they believe there is enough customer base for the coffee truck to expand into a shop and her answer was that, “The location is beautiful and there is a high footfall here. We have a lot of regular customers. With a shop, we can open for longer hours which will be good for the commuters going past as they go to and from London each day.”

My interview was finished, but my appetite was piqued and so I purchased a slice of their Basque cheesecake (which I had previously heard was popular), and it was delicious!

The new coffee shop is scheduled to open in about two weeks. Currently, Gabi and Flavia are continuing to Crowdfund to reach their £25,000 target and are offering many loyalty incentives to support them. I hope their dough continues to rise as Apsley marina needs a heart of the community to connect the many boaters, runners and dog walkers who enjoy this idyllic stretch of the Grand Union canal.