At St Eval Candle Company we are proud to partner with so many wonderful retailers. From gift shops to florists, cafes through to garden centres and everything in between. It's so important to support local and shop local where possible, and we want to shine a light on our incredible stockists and share their stories.
The next in our 'Shine a Light' series is Great Cornish Food Store based here in Cornwall. Great Cornish Food Store is a beautiful, independent grocery store, with its own butchery, fishmonger and chef deli and takeaway. Filled with exceptional food and drink from Cornwall located alongside Waitrose, Truro, it’s a food retail-first for Cornwall and Britain.
The Great Cornish Food Store is owned and managed by Ruth Huxley. We spoke with Ruth to discuss her inspiration, passions and why Great Cornish Food Store chose to stock St. Eval.
Why did you decide to open? Where has it grown from? What is your passion?
“I actually came to be running the store completely unintentionally. I had worked with Waitrose and the other parties involved in devising the concept of a Cornish food hall located alongside their Truro store in my role as a food market analyst and consultant. When they later approached me with the opportunity to make it happen all myself I was very reticent, but when it dawned on me that this could be a different way of doing the work I was already doing, developing Cornwall’s food and drink industry, it began to make more sense.
It was a huge challenge to design, fit-out and staff a 5,000 sq ft store, but I had an amazing team of very talented people to help me. From a standing start in January 2016, with just 4 walls on a building site, we were up and running within 6 months with the beautiful store you see today. Thinking about it still gives me nightmares, but also a massive sense of achievement. It’s everything I hoped that it would be, and has turned into the fulfilment of my passion for helping Cornish food and drink businesses, large and small, to get the recognition they deserve.”
What sets you apart from other shops on the high street?
“The store is probably unique in that it’s an independent food shop sitting right alongside a national supermarket, in the same building, with customers moving freely between the two stores. It means that people can get the best of Cornish produce at the same time as they are buying the rest of their groceries. Being so close also means that we have to provide top quality produce that is also good value for money. We want to make sure that the store is never thought of as just selling high priced goods for high days and holidays.
We wanted, and we’ve got, a reputation as a place where people can shop and know they’re getting great value for money. We take a huge amount of pride in the quality of the products we sell. We know all the producers personally; we talk to them all the time to know their plans and to ensure they’re up to speed with what we’re doing. We have well-loved and widely recognised Cornish brands on the shelves of course, but we also have many tiny little producers who perhaps only supply us with one product and who might not ordinarily get stocked by a retailer of our size. We like to feel we put the joy back into grocery shopping!"
What was your reason for choosing St Eval Candles?
“Although we’re mainly a food store, we still want to sell a limited range of items that aren’t either food or drink. These are carefully selected to reflect our own ethos and values, and all must provide a benefit back to the Cornish economy. St Eval candles were on our ‘must have’ list from the start and we’ve stocked them since we opened in 2016. They are one of our top selling brands all year round. We love the use of natural ingredients, which produce really genuine fragrances and the quality is just brilliant.”
How is St Eval displayed, used and enjoyed? How does it complement your stock?
“We have lots of fun displaying the St Eval range. There will generally always be something from the range on our special seasonal display at one of our entrances, and the main St Eval fixture is usually in the middle of the shop floor. One of our favourites for displaying the candles is a giant repurposed cable reel we nabbed from our electricians during our fit-out. It’s covered with hessian and then we pile wooden boxes on top at varying heights, expanding and contracting the pile to match our stock levels.”
What are your thoughts for the future?
“Well it’s been an extraordinary year hasn’t it, and who knows what the future will bring for any of us? It’s ironic that we started 2020 feeling more confident than ever, with thoughts just daring to turn to ‘what next’ after four years of successful trading. Covid-19 has thrown us a mighty curve ball of course, although we’ve used it as a chance to learn more about what’s really important to us – and to our customers. We had previously intentionally avoided e-commerce because our whole raison d’etre is to reinforce the value of personal relationships and the physical experience of shopping. However, this Christmas we’re dabbling with some carefully curated gift boxes online and I’m curious to see where that takes us.”
What are your St Eval best sellers and favourites?
“We stock an extensive range, which we adjust seasonally, but the tea lights and tins are forever popular, with Bay & Rosemary and Sea Salt being our top sellers generally. However, last month Tranquillity, normally a marginal seller for us but noticeably more popular since lockdown, outsold Bay & Rosemary for the first time ever. It’s a measure of the anxiety that’s still around us all no doubt, but reassuring to know that people are finding comfort in new ways.
My own favourite fragrances are Grapefruit and Lime, Vanilla and Bergamot and Nettle, and I absolutely adore the new White Christmas pots with the added gold sparkle. We’re expecting to sell more candles than ever this Christmas and I predict these will be this year’s winners.”
Thank you to Ruth and Great Cornish Food Store for their time, wonderful business story and continued loyalty.