Having taken over the store in 2013 following a move from London, John and Jason Rice-Lewis are celebrating ten years as proprietors of The Langport Stores health shop in Somerset.
“It feels like a real achievement, especially given the very real challenges facing local high streets this past year,” John Rice-Lewis tells NPN. “We are both proud to have successfully run the business for the last ten years, but equally we are quite shocked how fast that time has flown by. In many ways it feels like it was just a year or two ago since we moved to Somerset and decided to take our lives down a very different path.”
The store underwent a redesign last year and expanded its range, so how has this worked out? “In all honestly branching out into different areas like gifts, homewares and alcohol has been very successful and really kept the store running through some very challenging times. The new lines really help attract new customers and give existing ones more things to choose from. A change is as good as a rest, they say, and for the store that’s certainly true.”
Describing how the store has altered over the past ten years, Rice-Lewis says: “The interior from 1892 has remained much unchanged, but the store has really gone through quite the change. When we took it over it was a traditional health food shop and we wanted it to be more of a delicatessen. Over time though we realized a deli wasn’t what our customers really wanted and so we learnt to let them dictate what we sold, and this was a far more successful approach. These days it’s hard to label what we are, but I describe us as a specialist food store that also sells gifts and beauty ranges.
it feels like it was just a year or two ago since we moved to Somerset and decided to take our lives down a very different path
And what changes has he seen in the industry as a whole? “Well, COVID obviously played a big part in recent changes, as a food store we were open throughout and it gave us a lot of exposure to people who otherwise would never have used us. How many of those customers we kept since is debatable, but nevertheless I think it has left us busier overall. Generally, I think there is an increase of people choosing to shop locally, which is very positive, though this has to be set against rising food costs and people tightening their belts.”
The tenth anniversary was celebrated with a big party in the store with balloons, cakes and cards from customers. “In addition, we organized a gift bag for each customer who spent £10 or more, and we got through over 80 of these, so it was a very successful and happy day,” says Rice-Lewis.
I think there is an increase of people choosing to shop locally, which is very positive
As for the next ten years? “Another ten years? That I’ll have to think about! That said, we plan to carry on, as we love running the store, and continue to listen to our customers and provide them with what they need and want.”