Sweet smell of success at Carnforth gallery and coffee shop

Owners Aurelian and Michelle Barbu with their daughter Raeli
Owners Aurelian and Michelle Barbu with their daughter Raeli

When Romanian artist Aurelian Barbu moved from Spain to the UK, he had a vision – to showcase his work in an inspiring setting.

He set up an art gallery and coffee shop in Market Street, Carnforth, with his wife Michelle, calling it The Painted Bean, incorporating the idea of paintings and coffee beans.

From adding a few pieces of confectionery, the business grew into a traditional sweet shop, with more than 420 sweets in traditional glass jars, a range of sugar free items and a large selection of quality fudge.

Its personalised sweet cones and mobile catering with candy floss, popcorn, hot dogs and sweets, are also notable extensions of the business.

American-born Michelle, 40, says: “Aurelian and I met while working in the States and had three children there. We then moved to Romania and later Spain.

“When we came to England in 2010 we lived in a tent in Gibraltar Farm in Silverdale for two months while we sorted out where we wanted to settle.

“Then we moved into Carnforth and after about a year we decided to open what is now The Painted Bean. Aurelian initially wanted an art gallery.

“But economically we knew that an art gallery wouldn’t support us. So we decided to make it into a gallery and coffee shop.

“I came up with the idea to sell a few sweets to make it more traditional and it kind of just escalated from there.

“We would get people all the time asking for different sweets and so we would bring what the people were asking for. We started out with 25 sweets and now we have more than 420.

“After two years at our original location on the bridge across from the train station, we moved into our current site next to Carnforth Bookshop.

“We have been there for just over three years and it is the perfect spot for our kind of shop. We love this community and this business.

“We put everything we have into creating a shop that brings back memories for the older generation and makes memories for the new generation. We have had the absolute pleasure of watching most of Carnforth’s children grow up.”

One popular addition to the shop is their 18-month-old daughter Raeli.

Michelle adds: “Raeli has sort of become our customer service department. She is in the shop every day at some point and is so friendly. She greets people as they come in and she even offers them sweets. Everybody knows her as The Painted Bean Baby.”

While the emphasis is on the confectionery, there is still a strong artistic influence on the shop.

Aurelian, 47, created The Painted Bean logo which is now a well-known feature in Carnforth and there is even a colouring book based on the shop and the beans.

Michelle says: “We sell Aurelian’s paintings through our shop and also in Rowan Tree Crafts. He has paintings all over the world and he is opening a new shop in the beginning of August at our old location on the bridge.

“It will be called Aurelian Barbu Art Supplies, selling art supplies and, of course, his artwork. It will be ideal for him because he will be able to paint there as well.”