Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Fairhaven Wholefoods, Letchworth
We knew of this place from our friends Rachel and Steve who had mentioned it a while back. Since we were in the area a few days ago, it was worth checking out. I had a feeling there was a blog-posting-ramble in the pipeline, so here goes:
Fairhaven Wholefoods is an independently owned shop in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. It's a "one off" and not part of a chain and I do like this kind of shop!
Finding it was not too difficult even though it's in a bit of an unlikely place - on a trading estate with lots of other small businesses around them. A great feature is plenty of free parking and we just pulled up outside and walked a few yards to the door. None of this tricky supermarket manoeuvring around random minded trolleys, Mrs Lard with her 99 kids, tiny spaces in which you are almost guaranteed to drive away with another scratch on your car or even the dreaded car parking charge. No, you just drive up and park outside. Simple as that.
The shop is dedicated to whole foods and geared up to the vegan or vegetarian. You can see from the above photograph, it's a fairly basic shop with few frills. Amazingly they stock over 3000 different lines - wow!
Browsing around was really interesting in a few different ways. Firstly there were loads of things I didn't recognise and a fair few things I had no idea they even existed in the first place. Perhaps the most unexpected find was a range on underwear made from bamboo. Yes, that's right, bamboo. Amazingly soft. No, I didn't try them on! These have intrigued me and so you never know, they may feature some other time. Helpfully there's a wide range of leaflets, flyers, recipes and other things from local organisations available.
There's a wide range of wholefoods on offer; right from organic fruit and vegetables through to local honey, nuts, interesting teas and a great range of Ecover which includes larger sizes and the option of saving money by returning the original container for a refill.
There are various top brand natural health remedies on sale together with gluten free, dairy free and wheat free ranges. The range of things on offer was impressive. Amongst the things we couldn't resist was a jar of local honey (a later blog post?), a block of beeswax, a funny kind of novelty hat which caught Hannah's eye (she now looks like a green frog) and a good selection of sprouting seeds.
You might be thinking all this organic healthy food is too expensive and you'd rather support the questionable Tesco or Asda. Think again. Interestingly it doesn't seem too bad, particulalry as you can buy larger quantities of some foods there - muesli, chopped dates and dried beans amongst many others. We all know that buying in bulk normally works out cheaper and involves less packaging and less hassle.
Speaking of less hassle
It is a long time since I have been into any kind of food shop and been able to just amble my way around, looking at this and that. The whole atmosphere is unhurried; you go at your pace and you are very unlikely to encounter any trolley rage or argey-bargey with other customers.
The staff are only too happy to help. While I didn't have any queries, I got the impression they'd go that extra mile to help. When we got to the check-out I accepted the kind offer of packing everything into a cardboard box rather than a plastic carrier bag (sounds very environmentally friendly to me!). It was then I was asked "can I carry it out to your car?". Now that's good service.
They go further: there's a delivery service operating as well but we didn't need to try that out. You might assume it is just a small local delivery service, just within a 3 mile radius. Not so, just check their website and I was surprised to see they cover quite a wide area. That's cool.
Who owns Fairhaven?
While I was there, I got talking to Neil Timms, the proprietor. It is his business and bought it as a going concern a few years back. Neil explained he's a local man and before buying the business he was a regular customer.
It was while he was having a spell as a house husband, away from the busy cut throat world of IT in London he spotted the opportunity when the business was up for sale and bought it. Instantly my mind took me off into those very realms myself: I can tell you working for an arm of the Ministry of Justice is great but there comes a time when leaving all those hassles behind is so tempting.
So really I admire Neil. He not only comes across as a very socialable, friendly person with a good approach to business but I really admire him for taking that step. There must have been an element of risk but one which looks like it's proving a welcome and worthwhile step for the wholefood community around Letchworth.
This makes such a welcome down-to-earth change from supermarkets which are increasingly growing almost everywhere in the UK. To come across a shop that is independent, operates a fairtrade ethical approach with no frills is so welcome. Yes the shop is basic (I bet it's a bit chilly in the winter) but you're not paying for huge shareholder dividends or Limos for the boss.
Finally, this is where they are, so you can pay them a visit yourself....
Fairhaven Wholefoods Ltd
27 Jubilee Trade Centre
Letchworth Garden City
Herts. SG6 1SP
Tel 01462 675300