When Janet Barnett told friends she was starting a health food store in a gritty small town on the northern edge of Liverpool they said she was mad.
Ten years on, Barnett Wholefoods has just celebrated its 10th anniversary with bunting, goodie bags, birthday cake, lots of goodwill and glorious sunshine.
“To say it’s been an experience would probably be an understatement,” Barnett told Natural Products. “It certainly took quite a leap of faith, as a single mother with four children, to gather up the family and move from Ireland to Waterloo on Merseyside.
“I have family not so far away, so it felt a bit like coming home. But I wasn’t under any illusions about the task ahead. Particularly then, Waterloo was a place facing a lot of challenges. I got an idea what I was up against when one very experienced rep told me ‘if you can succeed here, you can succeed anywhere’.
“I was well aware that what I was doing went against all known business logic! But I just felt I had to do it. I had this burning desire to set up a health food shop … right here.”
“I was well aware that what I was doing went against all known business logic! But I just felt I had to do it. I had this burning desire to set up a health food shop … right here”
There have been some tough times along the way, says Barnett. “Two years ago, after a longish period of just about being able to cover the bills I suddenly started to think ‘actually, this is starting to look a bit serious’. That scare actually got us really fired up and everyone here has been giving everything they’ve got. We also took a decision at the time to start getting into facebook and social media – Russ, my partner, has been driving that and it’s really working for us.”
Barnett Wholefoods now has a team of five, all part-time – including Steph (“she’s been with us from the very early days”), Janet’s daughter Jasmine and Russ who volunteered to shelf stack on day one as a friend and ended up staying!
Barnett says she’s seen the local area change too. “It’s been transformed around us. I’d describe it as having more self-esteem. We’ve seen new micro-businesses and artisan producers springing up and a new air of confidence. It would be nice to think that we’ve been a part of that positive change”.
Barnett Wholefoods’ customers come from a wide range of backgrounds and ages. “We get trendy young people, families with young children and older people. Our customers also span all classes too and I feel very happy that everyone seems to feel comfortable in the environment we’ve created here. It’s great because some of our regulars are people who in the past would never step into a health food store.
“We have a business policy of doing our best to help our customers. We take the long view. We’re not always trying to sell people something, and we’ll tell them if it isn’t what they need if we don’t it’s right for them – it means that people trust the advice we give.”
“We take the long view. We’re not always trying to sell people something, and we’ll tell them it isn’t what they need if we don’t think it’s right for them – it means that people trust the advice we give”
Janet Barnett says she has been delighted by all the goodwill wishes the store has received from its customers. “We received lots of cards and balloons – it was very touching. The party we held was our opportunity to say thank you to all our customers. We put out chairs and tables and hung up bunting and we handed out lots of birthday cake. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and went away with a very generous goodie bag! It was a lovely day – all about strengthening relations with our local community.”
Main picture: The Barnett Wholefoods team – Jasmine Barnett, Stephanie Jones, Russ Muir, Janet Barnett and Sashka Bown. Inset: 10th anniversary celebrations in the sunshine.