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Talking Farm Shop - Bolster Moor Farm Shop

Since opening in 2009, Bolster Moor Farm Shop has gathered accolades including Yorkshire Life’s best farm shop. Simon Haigh and Andrew Whitwam, talk partnership and the value of taking advice.
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Catch up with #Huddesfield based #farmshop, @bolstermoorfarm!

Details

Details
  • Name: Bolster Moor Farm Shop
  • Location: Bolster Moor, Huddersfield
  • USP: Butchery, pies and ready meals, all made on-site

Starting young

Andrew: We started in business together early.

It began with an old greenhouse which we did up. We grew tomatoes and sold them to Bolster Moor Post Office, on the condition that we opened a business account at the post office. We bred a few pigs and we had an inkling to butcher them ourselves. I was about 10, Simon was about 12. That’s how it all started.

 

The farm shop was always going to happen...

 

It was just a case of letting our parents run the business for as long as they wanted until they said, ‘right boys, it’s your turn.’

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Simon: We knew things had to change...

My father and Andrew’s father were poultry farmers on this site. They stopped using the site when they reached retirement age, but Andrew’s father is still involved with the poultry business. By the time they’d finished the equipment was out of date and the cages were going to become illegal. We had to move with the times.

Taking advice

Simon: Building the farm shop wasn't really diversifying for us...

 

it was what we’d always done. We had a meat counter in a farm shop from 1996 to 2010, so we’d learned a lot already. We needed to expand there but we couldn’t because we rented the premises.

 

We didn't just dip our toes in the water, we really went for it...

 

Building the shop was a bit of a gamble because it’s in the middle of nowhere. We got a £100,000 diversification grant, but it was still a big investment for us.

 

Andrew: We've always taken advice from our elders...

Our dads told us we needed to retail, that we needed to sell direct to customers, and they were right. We sat down with Michael Kirk, a champion sausage maker, and he told us how to make sausages.

 

You may not agree with everything people tell you...

 

but there’s usually something you can take away that helps you develop. We learned a lot at Thamas Danby college; we both studied meat technology and butchery there.

 

We also gained experience in our jobs. I worked in a slughterhouse and Simon worked for Trusthouse Forte. Now we share this experience with our employees.

Listening to customers

 

Simon: It was our customers idea to build the cafe...

 

Every customer was saying the same thing. They wanted somewhere to have a cup of tea and meet their family and friends. It only took us a couple of months after opening to decide to go ahead and do it.

 

The cafe has much more value than what goes into the till...

 

It’s a massive asset because it brings people to the site and it’s a showcase for what we do. We make everything ourselves, so it helps promote our products. If it wasn’t a success it would be our fault because we already had the people coming here. We have between 750 and 800 customers coming through on a Saturday.

Moving forward

 

Andrew: It's important to keep developing...

That’s why we do the competitions, because it pushes us to be better. We also do a lot of trade shows. We’re always talking to people and we always come back with new ideas and new knowledge. We’ve got a full trophy cabinet, but we’re not resting on our laurels.

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Simon: We've built a second car park and its a big asset...

It wasn’t easy to get planning permission because we’re in the green belt. We employed a planning consultant to deal with that for us. There was no way we could have done it ourselves.

We're keeping a direct connection from farm to shop...

We have more than 200 cross bred cattle for meat, plus 115 breeding ewes, which are cross-bred texels, and a few pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle. Everything that we farm comes through the shop.

Satisfaction

 

Andrew: As well as quality and service, it's about having some banter with your customers...

You get to read your customers. Some want the banter, some don’t. We advise them. Sometimes they want to tell you about their lives and it’s important to listen. It’s all about communication. You’re not just a butcher, you’re their butcher. You’ve to give them that little bit of time.

It's a big team but we have fun...

To break the ice we wear sticky labels on our hats telling customers about offers, or sometimes just with something silly on them.

 

Sometimes I have four on my hat. The customers like it. When the horsemeat scandal was in the news we had stickers saying ‘no horsemeat sold here, just served by stallions.’ If I’m not wearing one customers want to know why not.

Simon: We got it right first time...

Since we opened we’ve built the cafe, extended the shop and extended the cafe. Now our focus is stabilising the businesses and maintaining our quality and success.

We've put Bolster Moor on the map...

We employ 84 people across the business. We’ve got five full time bakers, four pie makers and two packers. They’re baking between 12,000 and 15,000 teacakes a week. I’m proud of making a successful business on the site that our fathers farmed.


Take Home Tips

  • Enter competitions to improve quality and increase profile
  • Listen to customers and give them what they want
  • Use the the cafe as a showcase for produce
  • Have fun with staff and customers, make the atmosphere friendly

Awards

  • Pork Pie Appreciation Society best pork pie
  • Yorkshire’s best potted beef, BBC Radio Leeds
  • Britian’s best bacon buttie, Olive Magazine
  • Yorkshire’s best Cafe, Heart FM listeners’ poll
  • Best ready meal and supreme sausage winner, BPEX North East Roadshow
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