Rasen business celebrates first year of trading - and what a year it has been
The Green Life Pantry has been one of the town’s success stories, but the first year for owner Jenny Salvidge is far from what she expected.
Last Friday, shoppers were treated to a slice of birthday cake to mark the first anniversary and for Jenny to thank them for their support.
She said: “I may have started out as a newbie in Market Rasen, but we’ve made it to the end of our first anniversary now! And what a year it’s been!
“No - one could have predicted the events that have unfolded this year, never mind setting out with a brand new business.
“I can’t thank all our customers enough for their loyalty - and their patience - as well adapting to new ways of shopping.”
Spurred on by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on plastic, as well as being passionate about reducing waste, Jenny set about opening the Green Life Pantry to give people the opportunity to shop plastic free - by weighing their own foods, buying as they needed and so reducing unnecessary packaging and helping the environment.
Jenny said: “We opened just in time for all the Christmas bakers and had huge support from everyone locally.
“All our customers were very keen to reduce plastic and were happily bringing in all their reusable tubs for refilling.
“We were warmly welcomed by all the other shop keepers too and quickly became an integrated part of the community and high street.”
The Pantry enjoyed a fabulous first three months of trading and things were looking very positive.
The shop was nominated for The Best New Business 2019 at the Market Rasen Love Local Awards - and they won.
Things couldn’t have got off to a better start - but then Covid struck.
Jenny said: “We were so grateful to be able to stay open and continue serve our community. While the supermarkets were running empty of staple ingredients, like pasta, rice and flour, our supply never stopped.
“This was all because our products arrive in bulk sacks, which meant we never had the same delay in the products being processed, and then passed between many hands before they could reach the supermarkets.”
For the Pantry though, there were different challenges to face; having to change the whole way the shop operated.
She continued: “Overnight, we had to change from being self service weigh your own, to suddenly me just serving everyone.
“It was the only way we could reduce the contact points within the shop and keep everyone else safe.
“As the only member of staff and having a queue of customers waiting as numbers were - and still are - limited in the shop at any one time, it proved very slow and steady. But the weather helped a lot too!”
A lot of Jenny’s other plans had to be put on hold too.
Earlier this year, she had aimed to get the shop’s website up and running; there were also plans to help with eco-friendly community/schools projects.
The formation of a ‘friends of Willingham Woods group’ was also being looked into and Jenny was looking forward to helping the council and MRAG on new environmental projects, such as tree planting and re-wilding areas of Market Rasen.
But with little or no spare time, between juggling the shop, family life and home schooling four children, all those plans had to be put on hold - for now.
Jenny said: “One of the hardest things for me during this pandemic has been to see the massive environmental impact it’s making.
“All that time during lockdown we were caring for and enjoying nature, now it truly saddens me, to think of the tons and tons, of plastic PPE we are throwing away by the hour.
“All the more reason to do the best we can, for our local environment and show everyone how it should be done!”
However, Jenny says there are positives to take away from the experience.
“Working right through it all was personally so rewarding, but also a little exhausting at times and I am so, so grateful to one of our local Market Rasen Lions Club members, Elizabeth Eastburn, who took it upon herself to volunteer and come wash up for me and help me restock.
“I am eternally grateful to her, for that well needed break!
“I am so proud of the whole town, for the way everyone came together to help each other.
“Volunteer groups, neighbours all looking out for each other, cafes/chefs feeding the communities, and all the shops working together to let everyone know where they could get the things they needed.
“It was real community spirit getting everyone through, and I really hope that’s something that will long continue.”