Birmingham Market traders Mark and Paul Tate want to capitalise on post-Covid changes to shopping behaviour among the over-65s
The team behind Birmingham Market wholesaler George Perry has launched a farm shop and restaurant in Warwickshire to meet a growing demand for ‘destination shopping’.
The recently-opened store called Field to Fork, in the village of Wootton Wawen, comprises a farm shop (grocery, butchery and bakery), restaurant (known as The Orchard), and garden centre – offering customers a place to relax and enjoy themselves, as well as shop.
The new business – converted from a former camper van garage – is a fourth project for Mark Tate and his brother Paul, who already own and run three fresh produce businesses in Birmingham and the West Midlands. These being Birmingham Market wholesale suppliers George Perry and GP Salads, as well as a chain of greengrocers called Joe Richards, which is headed up by their business partner Mark Cox.
Mark explained that he, his brother Paul and Cox took the plunge with the £1m investment to capitalise on a post-Covid shift in shopping habits – particularly among older consumers.
Prior to the shop’s opening on 30 November, approaches were made to Birmingham chefs and the former Chancellor (and MP for Stratford-upon-Avon) Nadhim Zahawi to cut the ribbon. But in the end, the honour fell to a friendly elderly local called Rosemary, who befriended Mark and his team during the shop’s redevelopment.
Although it is still early days, the shop has been busy, receiving “unbelievable” customer feedback, Mark says. “That is down to the staff’s friendly market banter, as well as the high-quality food we offer.”
The fresh produce sold at Field to Fork is sourced from Birmingham Wholesale Market; the in-house butchery is run by the award-winning local butcher Eric Lyons; and the plants at the garden centre come from nearby nurseries.
Meanwhile, all the food served at The Orchard – which offers coffee, cakes, breakfast and lunch – is available to buy and take home from the adjoined farm shop.
“People now are looking for a destination – somewhere to have a mooch, socialise, and shop all at the same time,” Mark told FPJ. “They want everything in one place: a high-end café, a top-quality butcher, great fruit and veg, and a little garden centre too.
“It’s a not a huge place, but it’s got everything you need. The feedback we got was that people prefer a smaller farm shop with a personal touch to a huge garden centre.”
The shop is based in an affluent part of Warwickshire and the main customer base is the over-65s and young parents, Mark says. The shop has also been tailored to appeal to cyclists, dog walkers and ramblers, of which there are many in the area. There is a cycle repair station, complete with bike pumps and puncture repair kits, and there are dog bowls so pets can rehydrate.
Situated on the A3400 between Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham, the farm shop-cum-restaurant is also well located to attract customers passing between the two places.
Over the past few weeks, Mark and his team have been busy promoting their new venture on social media and in the local area, reaching out to schools as well as cycling and rambling clubs.
So far, the retail focus has been on Christmas – with turkeys, Christmas trees and wreaths all available from the shop – but moving into the new year, there will be “a big health push”, Mark says.
Most of the fresh produce is displayed loose in wooden and cardboard boxes lined with hessian sacks and straw, but the prices are “very reasonable”, according to Mark, thanks to his links to Birmingham Wholesale Market.