Did you see this announcement we made on Instagram early in 2021?? 👇
If you missed it or can't be bothered to click the pic and read through it now basically it was us announcing that we were leaving Aberdeen to move all the way down to South Wales to be closer to family as our pickle family is about to get imminently bigger! So now you're up to date we'd like to tell the story of how our move is progressing, hence the title of the blog! This is a story about us but also about how a small business might be able to relocate, in our case from Scotland to Wales, and thrive ( at least that is what we are hoping for).
The first hurdle we had to negotiate was finding a food production unit near to our new home near Chepstow in South Wales. Man it is hard finding food production units! The first one we visited was just down the road in Calidot in a business park and we managed to squeeze in a visit when we were in Wales at the back end of 2020. It was a complete kitchen which serviced the whole of the business park but it had hardly been used while everyone was working from home during lockdown. The plan for them was to relocate to the ground floor on a much smaller scale and redevelop the current kitchen into an office or something. The location is owned by Monmouthshire Council and while the site was enormous we could envisage the potential and how it could be utilised for our ferments and workshops. We felt quite positive until we discovered the price and all the other clauses and lease breaks etc. It was then we realised that they weren't kidding when they said Monmouthshire was Wales' most expensive county. Arthur was distracted for a while by the idea that pubs were closing left right and centre and could be a way forward - providing a home, production kitchen and a cellar of beer and wine. We tried to distract him from this as much as possible, but it could work for other people!
So we returned to Aberdeen leaving Madi's parents to investigate further. Ron (Madi's dad) did some extensive research and viewed a couple of places that were smaller units but would need extensive development to make them suitable for food production. These units tend to be badly insulated with very high ceilings which would be very difficult to climate control. Speaking to all involved the message we got was that food production units were very hard to find.
And then Zi (Madi's mum) spoke to her Chepstow Market Guru Andy. Local markets have been decimated by the pandemic lockdowns and info websites tend to be well out of date as support staff are furloughed. So Zi always asks Andy what the state of play is and when everything will be back on track. She asked Andy if he knew of anyone who sells locally produced food at the market and what they had discovered to be the solution. Amazingly, Andy immediately put us in touch with Angharad from The Preservation Society who had all ready journeyed along this path and could offer some valuable guidance and help.
Crikey, things moved fast after that! Ron got in touch with Angharad who is a mover and shaker in the newly established Wye Valley Producers collective and had recently moved into a new unit which was perfect. We then all had a Zoom meeting and she showed us round the unit next door to hers which was available. She sang the praises of the owner of the complex and gave us his contact number so we could go and see for ourselves. By three o'clock we were in the unit showing it by phone to Madi and Arthur in Aberdeen and were very excited by the set up. Now we can't reveal the exact location yet as Robert, the owner, only works by word of mouth and people's recommendations. His terms are very flexible and he decides who is suitable or not using his past experiences and common sense. All this made perfect sense to us and the relocation now had a location to move to!
Ron had trawled though endless small business premises listings that are tied up in legal jargon and mean you're signing up for a long lease, so we were so grateful for this stoke of luck . The development and refurbishment of the units for a food production unit involves plumbing, cladding, electrical connections all of which need to be organised and paid for and then dismantled and returned to the original state once you vacate the premises. In the end, asking for local advice worked for us, we were extremely lucky but it is reminder that not everything can be found online even in 2021! So, what we've taken from our experience so far is that if you need help with something ask. Use social media and tell as many people as possible what you are looking for and hopefully you will find a friend of a friend of a friend who can provide that golden nugget of advice.
Talking of Angharad, everyone in the local area has been very impressed by the consortium of local food producers in the area who united and formulated a plan to survive lockdown in 2020. If you watch Country File you may have heard about the scheme as well? Rather than each individual company taking and delivering orders they set up the Wye Valley Producers scheme whereby all the orders from customers were collected to a hub and then transported to a location in Chepstow for no-contact pick-up. So elegant and simple and all the companies could contribute to the pick-up as required. This sort of collaboration is exactly what food producers have needed during a lockdown but also moving forward when local food is becoming more important and highly valued. More of the Wye Valley Producers later, we are very excited at the prospect of working closely with them!!