Like many shop owners around the country, James Warren, the owner of the Salt Pig farm shop and cafe on North Street in Wareham, was faced with a heart breaking choice after the 24th March 2020. This was the date that the government announced the closure of all ‘non essential shops’ in a UK lockdown in order to try and limit the spread of Covid-19. He decided to adapt and start doing collection and home deliveries of the produce that he has become justifiably renown for since opening 10 years ago.
James was concerned though. As he told the Guardian newspaper who interviewed him just before the lockdown: “It’s been a very difficult time – a long winter, rainy weather, Brexit, the general election. And then we’ve got this.”
He was going to push on regardless, just as he’d done when working at Steeple Leaze Farm for 14 years prior to establishing The Salt Pig. Farmers have to be a tough, resolute bunch!
Just as he’d done in his butchery, urban farm shop, and cafe, James would continue to use the produce he’s sourced from the abundance of farmers, fisherman and artisans in the Purbeck area. Not only showcasing what they have to offer, but supporting these outstanding producers through these difficult times.
Quality and provenance is at the heart...
“Quality and provenance is at the heart of what we do,” it says on his Facebook page for the Salt Pig, “our ethos is to be able to provide people with quality food from their local surroundings, at an affordable price. We endeavour to promote a sense of community and local pride in all that we do through the incorporation of locally sourced food. It’s something to be celebrated after all!”
So while James had to shut the cafe in Wareham and the restaurant in Swanage, he decided that the Salt Pig’s butchery, kitchens and shop would remain open for meat, fish, cheese and vegetables in order for customers to order and collect food. Later on he added pasta, loose rice and lentils too.
He soon diversified further by offering food parcels that could include fruit and veg, eggs, milk, bread, meat and fish; these could be picked up or they would even deliver to those people self-isolating in Wareham. Not long after that, James decided to offer frozen or hot ready-meals including cook in the bag pouches and oven trays, all made by the Salt Pig using their own Purbeck meat and fish.
Recently, James and his team decided that they would like to do something to say thank you to those who are tirelessly providing care and support to our communities during this challenging and scary time – the NHS and other key workers: “We brainstormed and created a lunchbox for those who are busy looking after others, so that they’re able to fuel themselves with a delicious, but nutritious lunch…”
Adapt your business, but retain your suppliers...
James is quite sanguine now about how he has managed to adapt his business and crucially retained many of the suppliers that he has relied on all along. Such as the meat from Purbeck farmers who are both local and his friends, and the fish that comes in daily from Purbeck fishermen and women who use day boats and line-catch their fish, crab and lobster.
It gives him great satisfaction that through the support people have given to his business, they have also supported lots of other local community businesses too. “A huge thank you to everyone who has utilised our services, we are blown away from the response and will continue to provide for as long as we can.”
James’ insistence to keep his business afloat and to do well by others has not gone unnoticed in the community either. As one person commented on his Facebook page: “The Staff at the Salt Pig are really looking after local people at the moment, who otherwise might not have anyone to help. So grateful to them for helping us and of course, for their amazing produce… Local heroes!”