A BUSINESSWOMAN who was made redundant from her job in London has decided to open a new dog friendly café in Basingstoke, after being inspired by her late father, a former mayor of Basingstoke.

Mary Stevens lost her job as a content editor in November last year, and made the brave decision to use the money from her redundancy to do something completely different.

The mother-of-two, from Beggarwood, said: “It got to the point where I thought I don’t want to work in the city anymore. They gave me a pay off and I decided to use it to set something up.”

The 55-year-old was initially planning to open a new café in Winchester Street, in Basingstoke, but it fell through when, just before signing the lease, the country went into lockdown.

Mary managed to find another venue, and has now opened Willows Coffee House at the bottom of Church Street, which was previously run as a cannabis café.

“I found it perfect, it’s a beautiful building and I thought this is the one as soon as I looked around,” said Mary, who opened the café this week, before its official opening on Saturday.

She added: “I only saw it three weeks ago so I have signed the lease and opened up in three weeks.”

Mary, who is expecting her first grandchild in December, wants to support other independent businesses in the area, and is using local produce including cakes, bread, coffee, tea and craft beer.

She said she was inspired by her late father, Harold Allerston, who was the mayor of Basingstoke from 1988 to 1989.

“He was passionate about Basingstoke,” explained Mary, adding: “He hated the way Basingstoke had the mickey taken out of it. Dad died 25 years ago but he would have loved the café and I thought let’s do this for him.”

Mary has named the café after her cockapoo Willow, having deciding to run the café as dog friendly, with treats and water outside for them to enjoy.