I can’t quite believe it’s almost been a year since we left London and escaped to the countryside. But what many people don’t know is that our original plan was always to return to London…after a rest-bite of a couple of weeks in Yorkshire.
We were visiting my parents who, despite my never-dying love for them are completely mad. When I was 5 they bought an old farm in order to live as self-sufficiently as possible. There is no wifi, there is no bus route and there are no shops. The longest we’d ever stayed (discounting my own childhood of course) was one night so a two week stay all together, we thought, was long enough.
When we awoke on the first morning of our stay we travelled the 30-minute journey to the closest large town, which is Doncaster, to grab some breakfast.
I had actually already heard that Jackson’s…’famous Jackson’s The Herbalists’ was closing down. It was gutting to see as we entered the town. It had been an amazing shop with the most fascinating history and now the shop window was almost bare. A big, modern ‘TO LET’ sign hung over the old paint that read ‘The Herbalists’.
The Shepherd brothers were set to retire, along with the team of staff. The Jackson’s were long since dead having founded the shop some 86 years ago. The younger customers were becoming less interested in herbs and powders and the internet had almost killed trade.
Going online just wasn’t an option for the team, who I’m sure won’t mind me saying were not of the internet savvy era. John has never…and still will never get a mobile phone.
Arman and I went for a coffee. As we left and walked back onto Printing Office street we, without speaking, found ourselves pausing across the road from The Herbalists. Arman and I are both creatives…so we’re big self-confessed dreamers…and somehow in that moment our imaginations must have just clicked because as I looked at him wide-eyed I knew he was thinking what I was ‘I can do that’.
That sounds crazy and random and bizarre. But the situation in which we had escaped London had left us with an admittedly brave ‘fuck it’ attitude.
After a sleepless night of nervously excited talking we went back to Doncaster the following day and asked if we may speak with the owners.
That was Friday. On Monday we returned to begin re-stocking shelves. On one condition. The shop remains ‘as a Jacksons’. Turns out the previous owners had already been approached by a few people who planned to rip everything out and start again with different products and a new approach because it was a ‘dying trade’.
But I guess that’s why the boys gave us a shot. We never wanted to open a health food shop…we just wanted to save Jackson’s.
Last week, after a year of restoring the shop and renovating the office (there were no
working plug sockets let alone wifi...like I’m not even joking) we launched as The Herbalists online. With a nod to our founder, a call to our wider community and also because it turns out Jackson’s - Yorkshire is already a super well-known bakery…who’d of thought?
Find us online: www.theherbalists.co.uk
Or in store: Jackson's - The Herbalists, 44 Printing Office Street, Doncaster, Yorkshire. DN1 1TR. UK