AN independent coffee shop and canteen in Taunton will soon celebrate its first anniversary.

Eastside Canteen, found at Victoria House, on Victoria Street, is run by Jolie Saunders, who first opened the eatery on May 16, 2023.

She took on the premises on the ground floor of the former Van Heusen factory just months prior, and began redecorating in February.

"I decorated it all myself," Jolie said.

"There's four layers of paint on each wall, it took two or three months."

Jolie, who had previously worked in the hospitality industry, and as an estate agent, has always had an underlying passion for art, something which is evident in the aesthetic of Eastside Canteen.Somerset County Gazette: The canteen is beautifully designed, spacious, and full of house plants.The canteen is beautifully designed, spacious, and full of house plants. (Image: Jamie Grover, Newsquest)

"I felt like I'd never really found the right work," she said.

"Then this happened, and I feel settled."

She created the space as a place for people to socialise, work, or reflect, whilst enjoying some tasty food or a hot drink.

Since opening last year, Jolie attributes a lot of her success so far to Taunton's tight-knit community who have helped to spread the word about her independent business.

"I love it, it means a lot," she said.

"It's nice to have a sense of community."Somerset County Gazette: The breakfast menu, and cakes on offer at Eastside Canteen.The breakfast menu, and cakes on offer at Eastside Canteen. (Image: Jamie Grover, Newsquest)

Eastside Canteen brings in customers from 'all over', with many residents living in nearby houses often popping in, as well as those who work at Victoria House, and those who are taking their driving theory tests thanks to the convenient location right next to the test centre.

Open from 8:30am until 3pm on weekdays, the business serves up a range of cooked breakfasts and lunches, light bights, and cakes.

The canteen offers food and coffee to eat in or takeaway, and in addition to healthy food options, the Eastside Breakfast is a popular choice among visitors. 

Jolie moved to Taunton from London at eight-years-old, with the town becoming her 'base' for life.Somerset County Gazette: Another look at the canteen's interior.Another look at the canteen's interior. (Image: Jamie Grover, Newsquest)

The canteen marks Jolie's first time running an independent business, but she feels the experience provided at Eastside Canteen means large-scale chain competitors pose no threat.

"I just take each day as it comes and try to deliver the best to my customers," she said.

"Customer service is lost in the bigger places."

"The customers really make this place."