Despite only living in Shoreham for two years, Keith seems to know everyone. Not 10 minutes go by without him waving at a regular customer through the large store windows and anyone entering is greeted with a smile and some trivia about what’s in store.
Ginger & Dobbs, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
Hours: 8am-5pm Monday-Thursday, 8am-11pm Friday-Saturday, closed Sunday
Trading since: November 2013
Size: 900sq ft
Staff: Two full-time, three part-time
Style: A French country themed store and café selling local produce in the heart of Shoreham. Two Co-ops and
a newsagent are nearby.
“People want to know about their products, especially in independent shops because they know they can ask and get an answer. They won’t get that in Tesco,” Keith says.
Ginger & Dobbs fights off all local competition by sourcing only the best products and pricing accordingly.
Products such as fine wines, sorbets and fresh bread ensure it stands out to its customers. Stocking local produce allows Keith to get a good education about what he sells and where it is sourced, which he and his staff can pass on to his customers.
“It’s important to have a relationship with suppliers. The baker and the ice cream maker are good friends of mine. These are people I go out for a drink with,” he explains.
Keith’s ethic of ‘pay more to get more’ stretches to every part of his business. “We’re already paying above the minimum wage. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. I’d rather give them a bit more and trust that I can rely on them,” says Keith.
His produce is displayed in apple crates and bowls to create a rustic and homely feel, a total transformation from the austere-looking greengrocers and florist that occupied the premises before Keith took it over.
“I think this place is better at winter and at night. We light the place with candles and the church across the road is all lit up too,” he says.
As well as his relationship with his suppliers, Keith’s expertise comes from his passion for food. “My mum was a chef and I was learning how to cook when I was 10,” he explains. This upbringing combined with what he has learned from living all over the world enables him to bring something new to his customers. Keith says: “I worked in a coffee shop in Australia and they were so far ahead. Melbourne is probably the best place I’ve ever been for food.”
The novelty has struck a chord with his customers, which has led to the café part of his business becoming the number-one ranked restaurant in Shoreham and number two in West Sussex, based on customer reviews.
“It’s a great tool. I must have asked people to post on there about 20 times now and 14 have said that’s how they found us,” he explains.
The shop has become a solid part of the community. He has teamed up with the church to feed homeless people in the area and regularly donates prizes to local fetes. “I’ve had a couple of people come in and say they won our prize and they’re really chuffed,” he says.
The store’s success has been a product of trial and error, seeing what works and growing with his suppliers.
Keith is keeping his options for the future open and is considering opening another Ginger & Dobbs in the area.
“People say to me I could open four or five and then sell out but I don’t want to,” he says. “Ginger & Dobbs is named after me and my dog. I’d be selling out my name, and my dog’s name!”
Continue reading for his top tips and a full gallery of his store