Watch the video as I check out The Grocery.
London and I go way back. Many moons ago I studied and eventually lived there for several years. Recently, I traveled back for work and stayed in the East End known as Shoreditch where alternative trends, up and coming art and fashion, and a variety of cuisines all thrive here. During my time, I got the chance to learn more about a grocery store that’s been around for a few decades. It’s simply called The Grocery.
The Grocery is a health food store that started in the 90s by two friends, Simon Hill, and Geoff Goodman. They wanted to create a place they would want to shop in. At the time, this area of the city was a food desert, with no access to fresh food what-so-ever. The building was originally a bank, but it has also been a fax machine store, a tattoo shop, and it even recorded a radio show. The founders quickly realized they didn’t want to carry big name brand products from Persil, Unilever, or Procter & Gamble, so they brought in additional people, former Fresh & Wild (now owned by Wholefoods) employees and together they made the store what it is today.
This charming grocery store is an absolute pleasure to shop in. It even has a spa! Yes, that’s right! Not only can you have your coffee and cake in the café, but you can also get a verity of treatments as well, and I haven’t even gotten to the part about the wine tasting!
The owners of The Grocery hand select all their products from local and international suppliers. They carry everything from Norwegian coffee to locally sprouted salads grown via hydroponics in a former tube tunnel in Clapham. There are organic kale and spinach from Kent, meats from Ireland, chicken and beef from the same farm that supplies the Prince of Wales. Linda, the manager I spoke with, said, “Yes, we sell meat, but we are selling the best we can find. We care deeply about animal welfare.” They try to sell as much seasonal food as possible, but to meet the specific London demands, they are still selling strawberries in November.
Over the years the number of vegan products stocked has continued to expand. The Grocery is proud to offer choices. They don’t just have one kind of vegan product. If you want chilled vegan mayonnaise, they have three, if you want ambient, they have five, and cheeses, well they have a whole shelf in the refrigerator. In particular, demands for alternative milk have skyrocketed. Suppliers have had to cap the amount of oat milk they can receive, unfortunately allowing the larger supermarkets to cherry pick their products. Nevertheless, The Grocery continues to stock their isles with carefully selected products for their customers.
Very little food goes to waste at the store because the staff will receive any leftover perishables. Anything that cannot sell the next day will run through the register as wastage, which lets the supplier know how their product is selling, and then it’s given to the staff of over thirty people. Very little gets thrown away, which is fantastic!
Now, what sets The Grocery apart is their amazing selection of wine, with over 90% of it being natural, organic, vegan, and sulfate free. The store's wine buyer specializes in sourcing from small producers around the world. There’s a free wine tasting every Friday, and if you sign up for £20 to be a Wine Club member, they offer seasonal wines to try. Quite often the winemaker will come in and share about their fermentation process. It’s as if the vineyard tour comes to you. How cool is that? True to London architecture, the brick ceilings in this section of the store are part of the Overground train system, and you can hear it every time a train passes over.
There’s also a lovely café with extra seating downstairs. The on-site kitchen prepares a daily lunch service, offering two hot food options with a salad and I highly recommend it.
Now how many grocery stores offer a spa treatment? It was seven to eight years ago when the old staff room got converted into a spa space offering messages, yoga, and reflexology to name a few. The founders quickly realized they needed to hire a specialty manager to run the spa and it’s been thriving ever since.
The Grocery would love to expand their operation, but competition for suitable locations is fierce. Not only are they up against other health food stores, but other national chains as well. They have to compete with Mark & Spencer, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s, but they welcome local competitors like Planet Organic, As Nature Intended, Eat 17, Hackney Fresh, and the Plant-Based Supermarket. Their view is, “Bring it on!” If they can be apart of getting more people eating consciously, ethically, and thinking about how they’re fueling themselves, everyone wins really. People supporting organic farms are what it’s all about because sourcing local food is the future. Mono-crop farming on its own is unsustainable. It all comes down to a shift of consciousness and accessibility, and The Grocery is right there, thriving as the organic trend grows. But there’s no need to shout from the rooftops, as they say, “It’s just what they do.”
In conclusion, if you’re ever in London’s East End, The Grocery is definitely a cool place to check out. This unique shop has so much to offer, making it an absolute gem, and don’t forget to say hello to the shop cat, Asbo.
Thanks for stopping by The Grocery Checkout!
Location: Google Maps