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Couple look to create a culture hub in new cafe

Artists Tracy (known as Tree) and Martin O’Hare have a creative background which promises to make Vanilla Tree a stylish venue in the town.

And they are determined to use their new venture to help promote emerging local artists, including developing part of the premises as gallery space.

Tree pictured has become well-known in Bedfordshire for her handmade biscuits and cakes, which she sells at farmers’ markets across the county, and for her made-to-order creations.

Now husband Martin is swapping commuting for cappuccinos as the O’Hares take the plunge and open Vanilla Tree.

Tree, 44, and Martin, 45, met when they trained in fine art in the 1990s – Martin at Central Saint Martin’s and Tree at Camberwell College of Arts.

They hope their ongoing artistic interests will help make Vanilla Tree a distinctive, must-visit venue in the town. As well a featuring some of their own work on the walls, they eventually hope to make some of the space available to other Bedfordshire artists, including students.

“I have loved doing the cake-making and the farmers’ markets as part-time activity as my kids have been growing-up but it has always been our dream to open a coffee shop and make it our own,” said Tree.

“Martin has worked for years in London and we just got to a point where we had all had enough of the commuting and the daily grind of him working in the capital while living here in Bedfordshire.

"So we just thought we’d take the plunge and do what we have always dreamed of doing.

“Of course it is a bit scary because we have put absolutely everything into it. But it is one of those situations where if you do not do it, wou will always wonder ‘What if?’.”

Tree and Martin have spent the last two months converting an old carpet shop on St Cuthbert’s Street and make it their own.

“We are putting so much of ourselves into Vanilla Tree that we just hope that everyone else in the town loves it as much as we will,” Tree said.

She and Martin have continued to produce art as their working lives and family have developed. They hope Vanilla Tree will develop into buzzing hub for people with similar interests in the Bedfordshire area. 

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