It seemed a good and pleasing name so I retained it. My wife helps me in the business as does my teenage son at weekends, but not so often as I would like! There are several other members of staff. We are a family business.
After school I went to college to read hotel management. After three years study I joined the De Vere Group, which amongst others, owned the luxury Belfry Hotel in Sutton Coldfield. The Hotel owns the well known adjoining golf course which often hosts the Ryder Cup. The hotel business instils an appreciation for the need for hard work, long hours and a paramount dedication to looking after customers. That training forms a good grounding for ownership in the retail trade.
When Hamptons, a delicatessen, in the ancient and lovely market town of Stow on the Wold in the Cotswolds came on the market in 1988, I decided to buy it. At that time I was 24 years old. Moving from the luxury hotels business to gourmet food retailing didn’t seem too big a step in my relatively young mind. I was partially right but there are big differences. I had to learn on the job, and quickly, the many new pitfalls and complications that are peculiar to food retailing
Back in 1988, the sales area of the shop was quite small. At the rear was a door which lead through a wall to a kitchen where home made cakes, quiches, pâtés and so on were baked. In addition, atttached to the back of the shop were some run down storerooms so it was decided in 1990 to convert part of the storage area into a kitchen and extend the shop area though into the old kitchen. Easier said than done. The buildings are very old and substantial as you would expect in Stow, and the wall that had to be demolished was almost three feet thick!!
The foods that we sell are of high quality, unusual and up market. We are constantly on the look out for something different. In addition to home made products we sell teas, coffees, cold meats, smoked fish, chocolates, biscuits, a small range of wines and a bewildering variety of other shelf foods and much else besides.
It seemed a natural diversification to start creating and selling a range of luxury food hampers in 1999. The success has been most gratifying and we now have a national reputation selling across the UK and to a wide variety of customers. We supply many different sorts of commercial enterprises as well as private individuals throughout the year. Our service is second to none. Of the very many hampers that we dispatch each year, we have problems with less than 0.3% – and last year NIL problems which is remarkable bearing in mind the logistics of hamper distribution on a national scale. We have a high proportion of repeat business which is testimony to the high quality of our foods, service and experience..