An interview with Ben Ritsema: Co-Founder of The Swoop

Scarlet Rowe 19 February 2022
Image Credit: Scarlet Rowe

The Swoop is a charming new retail taproom located on Green Street which also, quite conveniently, functions as a cosy, quiet cafe in the daytime. Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ben Ritsema, who makes up one half of the owners to find out a little bit more about it. Before I cause any alarm, the two owners, Dan and Ben are twin brothers.

I sit down for the interview with Ben on the only two spare seats in the room and I ask Ben how he and Dan came up with the idea of setting up The Swoop.  “My twin brother Daniel and I came up with the idea at university in Exeter while Dan was up in Leeds. When we graduated, being identical twins, it made sense to set up a business together”.

The business all started with cider. Ben explains that “we are both quite health conscious, we play rugby and go to the gym and we wanted to produce a cider that is cleaner and more natural with fewer calories.” Now, they have produced four different fruit flavour ciders, a gin and a liqueur as well. Ben’s favourite is the premium apple cider, and these ciders are sold in The Swoop, providing a physical space for their business Cranes Drinks Ltd.

“As well as selling cider and spirits, we thought we would create a hub for local independent brands.”The Swoop sells non-alcoholic products which are locally sourced (from within a fifty mile radius of the shop), and I can confirm that a pleasing and aesthetic array of chocolates, soaps, fresh coffee and the like await people who decide to pop in.

But The Swoop is not just a space for selling local products, it also operates as a cafe. Ben says that it makes for a “great working space” and that he and Dan have tried to create a “nice feel” which they have definitely succeeded in. I have been there a couple of times now and each time the atmosphere is quiet and relaxed, meaning that I am actually, shockingly, able to get some work done there.

In the interview, Ben also emphasises the community aspect of The Swoop. “We only opened in December but the idea is that we will open up two rooms downstairs to hire out for people to run different clubs or host private parties.” In addition to this, gin, cider and cocktail workshops as well as chocolate and tea-making ones will be available to attend at The Swoop in the future. “We are open to any recommendations”.

Before the conversation rounds up, I am interested in why Ben chose to locate The Swoop on Green Street, a classic and picturesque cobbled street which, of course, leads up to Mainsbury’s. “It is just quintessentially Cambridge. It is a lovely street with a nice character and lots of space.” He says that “we also aim to open a courtyard garden at the back. So it isn’t just the location that’s great, it’s the space as well”.

Ben and Dan also come from a village outside of Cambridge so The Swoop is, quite literally, close to home for them. If you haven’t checked it out already, you can get a decently priced tea for £2. 20 or hot chocolate for £2. 50 at The Swoop and sit back and relax or work (or both) to your heart’s content.