COVID STORIES
Camden Grocer owner Matthew Bunch
Why Read This?

Because home delivery doesn’t have to be dominated by the supermarkets 

Matthew Bunch has had to think on his feet over recent weeks, but the result has been a valuable lifeline for his staff, customers and suppliers alike.

How has COVID affected your business?
“Just before the lockdown we realised we had two options; close our doors for however long, or try and keep working with our staff and suppliers in a new way. So we put together a very basic website in a couple of days and launched an online delivery service. A couple of our Instagram posts got picked up by influencers and we found we had an influx of new customers. We’ve been fortunate to maintain these even as the fears around food security have eased. When we opened in 2018, we were mainly about retail groceries, but being based at Stables Market meant we had to adapt to 80% of our customers being tourists and focus more on the café. While the current situation isn’t ideal, it has allowed us to go back to our roots.”

What’s your current offering?
“Our no-contact deliveries and pick-ups include meats sourced from Turner & George in Islington, which have been incredibly popular. A lot of our customers already know them, but to put a curated selection of their products in our boxes is fantastic. We’ve also got fresh fruit and veg from Natoora, who are synonymous with supplying London’s top end restaurants. There’s bread by Gail’s and Bread Factory alongside more artisan small producers people haven’t really heard of, all to be discovered on the website. And now we’re open daily again for a couple of customers at a time to come inside and browse the shelves.

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What have been your greatest concerns?
“We’re not going to come out of this crisis for a long time yet, and the government guidance is not exactly clear cut, so we can’t predict what the future looks like for us, let alone what we’ll be doing next week. We just have to be careful not to get complacent and to keep adapting. People are still anxious, but food gives us all a bit of joy, so we’re just happy to keep supplying that.”

What’s made you feel optimistic?
“It has been encouraging that out of this very challenging situation – especially around food – we’ve seen such supportive networks grow. There are a huge number of small food producers facing rough time. The ones that supply hotel and restaurants had their entire business decimated overnight, so we’re just pleased to be able to help keep these guys going. Also, we never thought it would be quite this situation that would bring locals to us, but it has put us on their radar. Residents from nearby places like Primrose Hill wouldn’t previously think to walk over to Camden Market to get their groceries, but now they are among our core customers.”

Who would you like to collaborate with?
“We’re looking at developing meal kits, partnering with local restaurants and chefs on the recipes, and then sending out boxes full of all the ingredients for you to cook up at home.”

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The Covid crisis has revealed the power and importance of keeping money circulating in the local economy, and the value of seeking out local suppliers. Matthew and his partners have picked up regulars who previously overlooked his fantastic produce simply because they didn’t ever venture into Camden Market. Consider a default to shopping local, and to exploring our neighbourhood afresh. There’s plenty still to discover.  

| The Camden Grocer website | Get directions with Citymapper

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