John and Kirsty Hammond of The Dairy Shop reveal what they love most about being in business in Sidmouth
Please introduce yourself…
We took over running The Dairy Shop in Church Street in July 2017, a small café and deli specialising in local produce, loose leaf teas and a very tasty Devon cream tea.
What made you decide to set up shop as an independent trader in Sidmouth?
In my previous job, I was working for a major supermarket and I was looking after food safety and legal compliance for more than 113 stores. This involved a great deal of travelling and time away from home. Kirsty, my wife, works as a children’s and youth worker for the Sid Valley Church of England Churches after teaching in Sidmouth Primary School. She grew up in Sidmouth and she has always been keen to help and work in the community. She used to talk of a space where young people could go and somewhere on Christmas Day that people could have company as an alternative to the Christmas Lunch being a more low key event. Fast forward a few years and we took the life-changing decision to take on a small business involving our whole family which we can use to act on our ideas…
After managing to get through our first folk week (by the skin of our teeth) just three weeks after opening, we made the decision to give back to the festival by becoming a sponsor.
Kirsty was very keen to look at becoming more environmentally conscious and one of the first things we did was to sell coffee at a reduced price for people who bring their own cup. We soon started to remove plastic from our shop, now only selling products in glass bottles and we started one of the first milk refill schemes in the country. We are trying to find suppliers that do not use plastic in their packaging. We try to source products that are as local as possible and as good quality as possible (with exception to our authentic Spanish range!). As this is our ethos, we decided to make and sell Sidmouth Gin, where we work very closely with several local business like Ebb Tides.
There are lots of visitors to Sidmouth over the course of the year and they do enjoy taking a small gift or something unique from our town back with them. So, we came up with our own Sidmouth Gin marmalade and a fudge made with our orange and honey gin. We entered ‘Seashore’ gin into the Taste of the West Awards and against over 50 gins we came away with a silver award in 2018 which was a real boost. This has led to several hotels selling our award-winning gin to visitors and the staff are even calling it ‘our’ gin belonging to Sidmouth!
How do you see your business faring over the next five years?
Who knows what will happen over the next few years with local and central government policy. but we hope to keep reinvesting into our business and continuing to learn what our customers want.
What one piece of advice would you give to anybody considering setting up a local independent shop or business?
For any potential new owners, I would always say do your research and then if you think it’s going to be hard work, double it. Something will always break and cost you more money to fix it! Don’t make any big changes at the start; wait until you are sure they will work. I have always said that being a Sidmothian is not about being born in Sidmouth it’s about loving and showing care for the town where you live.
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