The Gazette spoke to several independent Barnstaple shops, with many owners believing this is due to a demand for greater choice on the high street. Figures show the number of coffee shops and cafes has grown from 40 in 2010 to 75 in North Devon, and from 10 to 25 across the same time period in Torridge. This reflects a nationwide explosion in the coffee shop industry. At Queen Annes on The Strand, co-owner Sam Rhodes said customers want more places to be able to go to throughout the day, whether it is for meals or to meet friends. She said independent coffee shops provided a personal and welcoming atmosphere that chains lack. As well as consumers wanting this variation, several owners were motivated by the change in lifestyle they believed owning a coffee shop would bring. Driftwood Coffee Shop owner, Peter Szabo, said he and his wife Katie were fed up of working office jobs and wanted a different lifestyle when they decided to open up the Gammon Walk shop four-and-a-half-years ago. This was something that motivated Sam at Queen Annes too, as the temptation of a more flexible lifestyle contributed to her and husband Pauls decision to refurbish the former Heritage Centre into an eatery. The historic building has proved an attraction to customers, with the couple hosting wedding receptions, christenings and baby showers at the café. Speaking of the increase in competition from large chains, neither owner believed this to be a problem. Peter said: They are a disruption, but not a threat. Sandra Baddick, manager at Latteria Café on Bear Street agreed, added: A lot of our business is from regular customers, they like to come in and have a chat. She has owned the café for six years, and believes customers are drawn to the familiarity that Latteria provides. All three owners felt confident about the future of the trading environment, citing the security in the quality of independent business, as well as the friendly relationship they keep with their customers, as being key to their success.