Thu 23 Jan 14
From an old cart shed with a couple of freezers, no window and a calculator - to the UK's best Farm Shop - it's been an extraordinary decade for the Pollock family in Fife.
Ardross Farm Shop near the village of Elie in the East Neuk has won the coveted title UK Farm Shop of the Year 2014, beating off three hundred businesses. Ardross was the only Scottish company to feature in the awards.
The business was started by Fiona and Rob Pollock in 2005, as a means of selling the beef and vegetables produced on their picturesque farm on the Fife coast. It quickly became a hit with local people, businesses and tourists, gaining a reputation for high quality, traditionally grown produce. It now has an annual turnover of hundreds of thousands of pounds, employs 17 part and full-time staff, runs its own commercial kitchen and stocks over 2500 products.
Fiona Pollock said: "We started with a couple of freezers and a calculator. The whole family helped clean up and paint an old cart shed. On our first day, we had two customers and took in £23 and I was delighted!"
Fiona's daughter Claire helped in the shop when she got home from school to give her mother a break. Her sister Nikki got involved after graduating from university, and now manages the business, sourcing and buying produce. They concentrate on small, artisan and local producers. The shop has expanded, and with it the business.
A few years ago, the family built a commercial kitchen which produces a constantly widening range - including steak pies, soups, stocks, jams and coulis. Nikki believes their success is down to the relationship the family have built with their producers and their customers. "Everything in the shop has been tasted by our family and staff. If we wouldn't buy something or don't like it, then we don't stock it. We passionately believe in supporting fellow farmers and small producers and we actively seek out new ways to support them. We're very privileged to live in such a diverse area where local food is really coming to the fore."
It has been a steep learning curve for all the family, getting to grips with a businesses which has surpassed their expectations. Their growing reputation has meant the car park at the farm is often filled with customers and holidaymakers at weekends.
Nikki has had to get to grips with managing staff, and all the legislation and acronyms that are central to the food industry. "It took us ages to understand all the abbreviations when we first started. There were a lot of amusing conversations before we managed to work out what EPOS, USP, PSB and all the others meant!" More follows One thing has remained constant as the business has changed beyond recognition: the passion and commitment of the entire family.
Claire is now a trainee accountant and her other sister Tara is a PE teacher in Oban, but at weekends and holidays, everyone mucks in to help. "Without my sisters helping Dad dig parsnips and cut sprouts from our fields over Christmas and New Year, we wouldn't have survived," Nikki said. The Ardross team were chosen for the prestigious award by a panel of leading retailers and key industry figures, boosted by votes from satisfied customers, and secured after a mystery visit by the chair of the judging selection panel.
Remarks from consumers included the following:
• Great selection and promotion of local produce, always a pleasure to visit. Good selection of things to taste before you buy and lovely, friendly helpful staff.
• Best customer service, big selection of local producers. Nice to come back for a warm welcome.
• The produce quality and choice speaks for itself. Friendly and helpful staff too.
• They are always welcome every customer with a big smile, helpful, knowledgeable. Also have big selection of delicious local food. From the beginning supporting local producers. Always a pleasure to come back. :)
The business is now looking to take on a full-time cook, as its home-made products are best sellers. The family will go to the NEC in Birmingham in March to collect the award.