Visiting the local businesses of Hawkshead
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 April 2019
Hawkshead may look like it has stepped back in time, with traffic-free streets and period buildings around a cobbled square, but it's home to some sharp, innovative business brains
It is 20 years since Bury-born and raised Mark Whitehead and Southport-raised Maria started a boutique cafe in The Square, Hawkshead. Two years later, Foot and Mouth devastated the tourist economy and forced them to diversify.
Hotel management trained Mark started devising recipes for relish and pickles, and Hawkshead Relish was born. It soon swamped the cafe, which made way for a shop to display their jars.
The business outgrew the space and the Whiteheads acquired a Grade One listed barn a mile from the village by Esthwaite Water.
Later still they spread into three warehouses in Ambleside where the jars are packed and distributed.
Last year they made 700,000 jars of pickles, jellies, relish, jams and other high quality foods that tempt even the most discerning of customers including chefs with household names who would rather you didn’t know they resorted to tastes from a jar.
Hawkshead Relish supplies the likes of Liberty’s, Booths and Harrods, with their own brands.
The company is also big into exports, which makes up around ten per cent of its output and is busy making contacts world-wide before Brexit kicks in. ‘Who knows what we will be facing then?’ says Maria.
Recently they shipped 40,000 jars of strawberry daiquiri jam to Germany after securing the lucrative sale on an overseas trade mission.
The deal will see a major German wine club supplier sending out a customer offer of the Lake District’s finest preserves to all its top customers.
It came as result of trade missions to Europe with support of the Food is GREAT campaign, where the company was introduced to other contacts in Sweden and France that have now become regular customers. Next is the American market.
‘We are looking for new customers and markets, but we ensure quality is at the heart of what we do,’ said Maria.
She is putting together their story in a book, Embellish with Relish, to celebrate the 20-year mark. ‘It is something I have wanted to do for ages,’ says Maria.
The book will include around 60 of Mark’s recipes and reveal their 10 best-selling products. Martin Frickel, a chef at Forest Side in Grasmere, is helping with the fine-tuning.
Martin is also helping Maria spread the word about Lake District sourced foods at the NEC in Birmingham this month at the hub of a group of producers displaying at the Farm Shop and Deli Show.
Back in Hawkshead, the shop in the Square is still thriving with daughter Abbie, aged 24, running it. Her sister Izzy, aged 22, is office manager at the barn.
They were mere toddlers when mum and dad embarked on their amazing venture in world domination.
Dispensing with tradition
Another family business of wider influence is the pharmacy Collins and Butterworth.
It is run by Simon Butterworth, who teaches at Manchester University, at the Centre for Pharmacy Post Graduate Education, and takes a national role in trying to persuade pharmacists to return to practice after a career break.
He is also well known nationally for campaigning for a fair deal for pharmacies, especially small independents like his own, from NHS funding. His Hawkshead pharmacy attracts customers from Ambleside to Coniston.
The business began in Denton, Manchester, run by a Mr Collins who died in 1932. By then, Simon’s grandfather had survived the battles of the Somme and Ypres in World War One, trained as a pharmacist and gone into practice with Mr Collins.
Simon’s father Anthony took over in the 1960s before deciding to uproot family and business to Hawkshead in the 1980s, when Simon too qualified as a pharmacist at Manchester University.
‘We wanted to stay in Lancashire,’ says Simon, who adds that with his aunt and a couple of cousins also pharmacists, the family holds the world record for years on the pharmacy records.
‘What is important to us is providing a pharmacy service for this wider locality,’ he emphasises.
They’re happening cats
New kids on the block are a couple who have opened a cat cafe and cultural hub for Hawkshead.
Partners Emma Watson, 32, and Luke Brown, 28, are behind ‘Kittchen’ which comprises a cafe downstairs and an events area above.
Events include themed cinema screenings, live music, poetry session and arts and crafts for children.
The cafe is also home to five rescue cats called Kiki, Bill, Gilbert, Bruno and Daisy and it features an array of cat literature, toys and climbing apparatus
‘Our tag line is Café, Culture, Cats,’ says Emma. ‘This pretty much sums up exactly what we do.’
‘We are cat people, and we find customers love to sit with them on their laps in a relaxed atmosphere. The cats are very affectionate, and some people come back time and again to enjoy their welcoming and friendly reception.’
The couple are striving for Kittchen to serve 100 per cent local produce. Already tea is from New Leaf Tea Tasters in Near Sawrey and the coffee from Carlisle, breakfast is supplied by Lakeland Mues and pork pies come from Higginson’s, platters of local cheeses and, of course, pickles from Hawkshead Relish are all on offer..
A red hot favourite
The quirky cafe and gift shop, Poppi Red, was set up by Kim Merrick 15 years ago.
It is undergoing a redecoration and extension, with upstairs rooms being opened up for the public for the first time. The terrace will become a tea garden, and inside will take on the look of an orangery with a botanical theme. The works are due to finish by May.
‘It is time we had a refresh and we are becoming a cafe with rooms, aimed at families, cyclists and walkers, and dog friendly.she said.
‘Hopefully we can attract more people into the village, while at the same time encouraging them to use public transport.
‘Hawkshead is a network sort of place with access to Grizedale Forest, the Lakes and fells. We want more people to be able to enjoy the Lancashire side of Windermere.’