Scottish politicians have called for supermarkets to create shelves and aisles specifically for local produce, but some argue that a lot is already being done to support independent businesses. In a city like Liverpool, bursting with entrepreneurial spirit, ingenious start-ups and admiration for hard work and determination, we look at whether we’re doing enough to support independent business in 2019.
We’ve started the new year with the gutting news that both Love Thy Neighbour Bold Street and Slim’s Pork Chop Express have closed their doors for the last time. Official statements don’t give any clues as to the reasons behind the closures but all is not lost as both point to new ventures.
Support for Independent business on Merseyside is strong. Scousers look after their own and we love nothing more than championing a home-grown brand. Take Bold Street Coffee for instance. The crowd funder campaign set up to get the much loved coffee house back into its 89 Bold Street home was smashed out of the park. While the donations came flooding in and the renovation work began, Bold Street Coffee team, Katy and Sam partnered with Castle Street pizza joint Santa Maluco to temporarily add coffee and brunch dishes to the menu.
Another resurrection story comes in the form of Maguires. Having offered the Renshaw Street masses a place to appreciate amazing up and coming music and comedy, plus vegan and veggie pizza for more than 5 years, Maguires closed in 2018, but not for long thanks to a couple of former employees. Brand new venue OUTPOST is now open and while much has remained the same, the menu has expanded, there’s new beer pumps and the 2019 gig diary is filling up fast.
Sticking with Renshaw Street, there’s an unmissable experience waiting for the foodies out there! Grand Central Food Bazaar offers a culinary heaven with no less than 11 local food vendors all serving up seriously good street food, all under one iconic roof. Asian cuisine, vegan pizza, halloumi everything, you name it! Coupled with live music and a lively atmosphere, this brilliant venue has provided a city centre stage to showcase amazing local food.
Prescot, a town just 20 minutes from Liverpool City Centre has enjoyed a renaissance with the news that providing a huge boost to the forgotten high street. In less than 6 months Prescot has welcomed five new businesses, all of which have invested in hiring local staff and producers. From Balearic Bar, Urbano Chiringuito to the Albion Bakehouse expansion Down in Albion, The Kingsmen Street food venture and Pinion, the 5th restaurant from North West Chef Gary Usher. A great example of the regions commitment to independent business is the Pinion Crownd Funder, which raised in excess of £50,000 in less than 24 hours.
While the independent coffee shops are consistently busy, indie creatives and producers are crying out for a permanent place to trade. With a growing diary of weekly markets, pop up events, festival and the likes of Independent’s week, could a supermarket partnership be the answer?
Little Deli Crosby said: “There has been a rise in outlets selling local produce. In our view supermarkets have witnessed a growth and we don’t think it’s a want, it’s a need.
“Supermarkets have seen the strength in independent produce and they want a part of it. We don’t think consumers go to the supermarket to buy local, for us competing with national suppliers under one roof won’t work. Our customers love to buy local to support local businesses.”
For Liverpool artist Kitty Fuller the answer lies in a shared space that is dedicated to local business, she said: “We have pop up stalls and markets once a week or once and month but nothing really permanent here in Liverpool.
“The Baltic has made a wonderful start, as has Cain’s Brewery but if we could bring Borough Market to Liverpool it would be ace. Our indie coffee shops are thriving, we’ve got that right. But for artists and producers, we are still missing an integral hub.
“We need to support grass roots, family-led businesses alongside the indie pop ups. I like the idea of selling my wares alongside a family grocer.”
The Nest at Royal Albert Dock stocks a wide range of hand-picked crafts and gifts from local designers and is headed up by artist Katherine Caldwell. She said: “There is certainly a place for locally made produce in supermarkets, but we should be a little cautious too.
“The kind of sales that a supermarket could generate could be great news for producers who can bring their own costs down if they know they have a large scale stockist to sell to. However I’d rather buy my locally made produce from a locally owned store.
“These stores tend to become the places that we feel are part of you who are, they are part of our local identity. There’s nothing quite like getting your cheese from Liverpool Cheese Company, your groceries from Mattas, meat from your local butcher, who can tell you all about where it has come from and even what breed the cow is! Bread from the Wild Loaf or Rough Handmade Bakery, vegetables from Claremont Farm and all manner of amazing local produce from microbreweries at Delifonseca….the list goes on.
“Supporting local business isn’t just about cherry picking produce for shelves, it’s about supporting the small shops that make a living from selling it. These shops do a great job of making shopping a real experience worth travelling for. An experience that I don’t think can, or should be replaced by supermarkets.”
Could the city benefit from a dedicated space for independent producers, creatives and brands to trade together, under one roof? Is there a space within the massive regeneration and development plans for such a venue and where would it be best suited? From a consumer point of view, what can we do to better support independent and local business? We want to hear your thoughts. Drop us a line @TheGuideLpool on socials.
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