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MEET THE OWNERS: WRIGHT’S FOOD

Simon Wright and Maryann (c) Wrights Food Emporium

We asked Simon and Maryann at the wonderfully named Wright’s Food Emporium (find them here on The Extra Mile venue finder), to tell us where the idea for their business came from, and what keeps them going. Here’s what they said…

“Wright’s came from an idea to open a ‘village’ shop with a small cafe serving good coffee, sandwiches, cake. The name is our surname and Emporium seemed the right word: place of trade.  

We started in a different location but after a year this didn’t work out and we were a bit stumped about where to go next. We came to look at the building in Llanarthne which was huge, filthy and very dilapidated but did have some lovely features like the floors and windows. We saw the potential and, with the help of a few good friends, were able to get the funding together to buy it. It had a good feeling about it and having historically been a coaching inn, felt welcoming.

Freshly baked bread at Wright's Food Emporium

Some people thought we were crazy as it’s very rural but luckily it has worked out and become a destination of its own for many people. 

We wanted to use local produce as much as possible and cook as much as we could from scratch; bread first thing in the morning, cakes daily, soups, stews, pies and so on. We use local meat, vegetables and cheeses and try to keep everything seasonal.

Wright's Food Emporium fresh food display

I have been working in hospitality for the past 30 years running restaurants locally and coming from a family with an interest in food and farming. 

We use local suppliers for as much as possible and are happy to try anything new and local, luckily for us suppliers seek us out. During the pandemic rather than closing as was the norm we stayed open to supply our local customers and support our suppliers who were losing most of their markets and customers, creating a click-and-collect service which proved very popular. 

We use recyclable and compostable packaging as much as possible; we supply pies etc in enamel dishes which customers return for us to reuse; and we use a wood pellet boiler and stove for most of our heating and hot water needs.  

I enjoy working with our loyal staff and having such great customers, many of whom have followed us from business to business over the last 30 years. Hearing positive comments about our food, shop and ambience is very rewarding. 

Fresh vibrant veg at Wright's Food Emporium

Costs are rising at a frightening speed and increased energy costs are now hitting us so we fear that the next year is going to be very challenging . 

We take pride in being welcoming to all at Wright’s and are happy that our customers feel part of our business. You can call in just for a coffee or a loaf of bread or stay for hours chatting to friends and enjoying the hospitality. We only sell food we enjoy ourselves: wine and spirits from suppliers we admire; pottery and crafts from local makers as much as we can; homewares we find useful; and ingredients from Italy and Spain we can’t live without. We are happy to stop for a chat and give advice when required on food or anything else we can help with .

Ideal road trip? Driving through a rural area of Wales, Scotland or France, as we did in September up in the mountains of the Ardêche. It was so beautiful, quiet and peaceful. Time away is very precious when you are in the hospitality trade. 

My ideal car snack is definitely a packet of crisps, ideally olive oil and salted !”

Simon Wright and Maryann (c) Wrights Food Emporium
Wright's branded tomato 'catsup' at Wright's Food Emporium, Wales

Thank you Simon and Maryann for sharing your Meet the Owners story with us here at The Extra Mile, we’re thrilled to feature your friendly stop-off point in our guide.

If you’re keen to support the hard-working foodie hubs that are at the heart of their local communities, use our Venue Finder to seek out great stops on your next trip or buy the most up-to-date edition of the guidebook here. The new edition will be out in spring 2023, and we can’t wait to see Wright’s in amongst our fabulously foodie pages. 

Produce at Wright's Food Emporium
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EAT:FESTIVALS – TRULY LOCAL FOOD

Man from Ginger Beard Pickles and Preserves holding a jar of pickle

eat:Festivals are renowned across the South West not just for the excellence of their festivals and traders selection, but for their award-winning efforts to produce a sustainably run festival. We talk to festival co-founder, Beverley Milner-Simonds, about the importance of shopping locally, eating local foods and supporting local businesses.  

Q) You run a series of award-winning local food festivals across the West Country. What does local mean to you, and why is it so important that you only feature very local traders at each event? 

A) We’re all from somewhere, and making where you live work and play a better place seems the right thing to do. Focusing on local producers allows us to keep that money in the local community and introduce people to producers they can buy from easily time and time again.

Woman trading at the EAT Festival holding a wrap

 

Q) If people are used to buying big brand products, what do you think are the key things they’ll notice if they start to shop at smaller local places, or to buy locally made, hand-crafted food from local producers (and why does it matter)?

A) Buying from small local producers allows you to get the story behind the product. To understand how it was grown, made and ultimately brought to life for you. Understanding where your food comes from, meeting the maker, and having a great time is the underlying ethos to eat:Festivals.

Q) Why is it important to support local producers and do you have any specific examples of a business that suffered then bounced back or had to innovate or diversify as a result of the huge challenges of recent years? 

A) Being able to help micro and small businesses thrive really gets us out of bed in the morning with a big smile on our faces. Watching fledging businesses grow, become employers, develop new products and get stocked locally is incredibly rewarding. Take for example Nutts Scotch eggs. They relied heavily on face-to-face sales, pre-pandemic. Now, they also focus on their online sales, supported by some of their previous direct sales to customers, and have developed their kitchen space ready to supply bigger customers wholesale in this post-pandemic world. They’ve seen a big switch in their business balance; having more regular wholesale customers now enables them to have a steadier income and to employ two more members of staff. 

 

Crowds at an EAT Festival

Q) You’ve won multiple awards for your green, planet-first ethos. What environmental, green or ‘local’ related award are you most proud of and why, and do you have any nuggets of advice for small food businesses who want to minimise their impact as they grow? 

A) We are very proud of how we run our business. Sustainability for us has six key parts. Transport, energy use, water use, food, waste and impact in the community. The events industry has been a very wasteful sector over the years, with temporary structures erected and scrapped after the event. We were recognised at the Tourism Excellence Awards South West in 2019 for our responsible, ethical and sustainable approach to tourism. We have proved that you can run events differently. At a festival, you have an opportunity to engage with people in a different way. You can prompt behaviour change by encouraging people to walk, cycle or scoot to your event, or mandating no single-use plastic (which met with no resistance whatsoever from any of our producers). You can encourage people to switch to fully compostable materials, or to those that can be recycled at home for those who are taking purchases away with them. Our top tip for small food businesses starting out is to look at the different aspects of their production along those six areas we highlighted. Transport, energy use, water use, food, waste and impact in the community. 

Q) Where might your traders’ products be stocked, locally and in the region? Will you find any of them at motorway services?

A) We get such a buzz when we spot one of our producers being stocked locally, regionally and in some cases nationally. You’ll find our producers at your local farm shops and sometimes even at farm gate sales too. But you’ll also spot them on the menus at independent restaurants and cafes and bistros and at some petrol stations and forecourts, especially businesses like Touts, based in North Somerset.  

 

Man enjoying a Secret Orchard cider

Q) The Extra Mile book exists to help people find good local food in lovely surroundings just off motorway and main road junctions, to stop them having to go to the Services. Can you name a few of your own favourites (here is the Extra Mile map if that helps)?

A) Top tips off the Motorway? Well, obviously Gloucester Services for anyone heading up and down the M5 in the West Country. We also love Pyne’s of Somerset, just south of Bridgwater. Brockley Stores on the A370 in North Somerset, OMG, it’s worth the detour, let’s face it, such incredible stuff in there! If you’re heading further south on the M5, then Darts Farm is a really good food hub, with lots of amazing producers stocked there. And if you’re looking for a cracking cup of coffee, we’d love you to turn off at Wellington and go and explore Brazier, a coffee roaster based in Wellington with a lovely back story. 

Q) Will you use The Extra Mile Guide – Delicious Alternatives to Motorway Services?

A) Being able to get to the root of where your food and drink comes from, to meet the maker and to hear the story behind the product, is a really nourishing way to eat. The Extra Mile enables you to discover great local food and drink on your travels so we think it’s a great idea! 

 

People browsing local food stall at an EAT festival

eat:Festivals are a great free day out. You’ll find them in 17 town and city centres across the South West, showcasing the very best of local food and drink from within 30 miles of the town. In addition to the truly incredible food and drink on offer, each festival offers free entertainment, education, sometimes free bike mechanic sessions and a whole heap of foodie fun. 

Visit eat:Festivals on Facebook and their website for more details on upcoming events and how to join as a local trader.  

To buy The Extra Mile Guide (from Glovebox Guides) visit our Shop now. The fourth edition is underway and will be out in spring 2023. Contact us now if interested in joining its collection of memorable local places to eat, drink and rest.