Sojo Bistro, Acomb: Sisters open new affordable independent cafe and wine bar in Yorkshire suburb to ‘appeal to everyone’

Two sisters have opened a new cafe and wine bar in Acomb to appeal to all ages as part of a scheme to bring in more independent businesses to the area.

Sophie Armstrong and her sister Josephine, originally from Hampshire, have lived in Acomb for 20 years.

They dreamed of opening a restaurant together for years and were in luck last year when a property was put up for sale that ticked all the boxes.

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A survey undertaken by the City of York Council titled ‘Shaping Acomb Front Street’, found that residents wanted to see more independent businesses in the area.

Inside Sojo Bistro.Inside Sojo Bistro.
Inside Sojo Bistro.

With this in mind, the two sisters bought the property and turned it into a cafe and wine bar that would appeal to everyone.

“As soon as I walked in the door I thought, yeah I love it,” Ms Armstrong told The Yorkshire Post.

“Acomb is full of charity shops, betting shops, lots of hairdressers which is fine but you want to give people a bit more choice.

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“So with Sojo, we said let’s try and do a cafe by day and just something to appeal to all ages. The older generation go during the day, get coffee and meet up with friends, but then you’ve also got the young mums as well.

Sisters Josephine (left) and Sophie Armstrong (right), owners of Sojo Bistro.Sisters Josephine (left) and Sophie Armstrong (right), owners of Sojo Bistro.
Sisters Josephine (left) and Sophie Armstrong (right), owners of Sojo Bistro.

“I was a young mum in Acomb 20 years ago and was trying to find somewhere to go to meet with other young mums.”

By day, the business is a cafe, by night it turns into a relaxing wine bar where younger people and mums can enjoy an evening out with their friends.

“By night we wanted to do a relaxing wine bar, somewhere for groups of girls to go to meet up with friends, talk, not somewhere like a pub where it can get really loud and rowdy,” Ms Armstrong said.

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“We’ve used our logo: Eat, Drink, Socialise. We also serve cocktails; as far as I know there’s no other place in Acomb that does cocktails.

Sojo Bistro.Sojo Bistro.
Sojo Bistro.

“I have noticed on Facebook that our biggest followers are females between 35 and 55 which is quite interesting.

“When you’re there on a Friday or Saturday, we have had a book club, we’ve had ladies meeting friends, but then we do get a variety of people coming in on Friday nights and Saturday nights.”

Ms Armstrong has worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years, including at Star Inn the City, and has employed the executive chef at the restaurant to cook the meals at Sojo.

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The restaurant serves breakfast from Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 2pm, lunch from 11am to 2pm and on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays it is open through until 11pm.

“[For breakfast] We do things like eggs on toast but we offer add ons including hollandaise, smoked salmon, so it’s quite a basic menu,” she said.

“We also cater for vegetarians and vegans; we do a tofu scrambled egg on toast, we do wild mushrooms on toast, and a smoothie berry bowl.

“[For lunch] We do sourdough sandwiches and we do our signature, healthy Sojo Bowl, which has avocado, green lentils, turmeric hummus, pickled red cabbage and broccoli, so it’s another healthy vegetarian and vegan option.

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“From 5pm we serve our sharing boards. We do a Yorkshire Board which has got things like scotch egg and pork pie and we get all of the [resources] from a local butcher who has been a family friend for a long time.

“We use Simon Bains, which is another local food and vegetable supplier. We have an extensive wine list. With our menu we do use Bluebird Bakery for all of our bread supplies.

“I’ve worked with [Jamie, our general manager] at Star Inn the City. He has got excellent wine and mixology knowledge so he is driving that side of the business forward.”

Despite February and March being relatively quieter months for businesses, Sojo has had really good support from the local community, family and friends, Ms Armstrong said.

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“The word is getting out there. We’ve had a few bookings coming through because we’ve launched an online booking system,” she said.

“Obviously it’s getting to be the busier season, the lighter nights, people are going out more. I think also with Acomb launching its monthly Artisan Market, that does make a difference because it brings some different people to the area and they are noticing that we’re there as well.

“We have kept the price point down as well, because we are very mindful of the area and it’s not a time when people have loads of spare cash.”

There are plenty of events coming up at the restaurant over summer as they work with various local businesses in the area.

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“We are working on a programme of events that is trying to appeal to different people,” Ms Armstrong said.

“We’ve already had our first Supper Club; the executive chef from Star Inn the City came and did a four-course tasting menu that was sold out with 30 people on the waiting list.

“We launched our next one which is going to be in June, we’ve already had bookings for that because obviously we’re quite small, we’ve got a maximum capacity of 30.

“We’ve also got a Pottery at the Pub event [taking place] in July, so there are a lot of things that we’ve got planned.”

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Over the last few years, Acomb has been considered an up and coming area, Ms Armstrong explained why she believes the area has gotten more popular.

“I think it’s because we’ve got a few more independents coming to the area which is always nice, and we’ve got affordable property and it’s a good start for somebody starting out,” she said.

“York itself is very expensive. But I think with Acomb, you’ve got affordable property, you’ve got access to everything.

“In Acomb, you’ve got pharmacies, doctors, dentists, supermarkets, everything. Plus you’ve got a really good bus link into town and then 30 seconds driving and you’re on the ring road to A64 to Leeds or Scarborough.

“Primary and secondary schools are all ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ so that obviously does appeal to people with families coming to the area.”

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