Discover: The Corbridge Larder
We caught up with Jennifer Horton, owner of the proud-to-be-local delicatessen that’s breathing a new lease of life into Northumberland.
By Becky Hardy
What inspired you to take over the The Corbridge Larder in 2015?
The main reason for buying The Corbridge Larder was to return it to being a destination within Corbridge. When I first moved to the area over 20 years ago, I remember the Larder being full of lovely artisan products; it was a place you wanted to shop, to find something a little bit different. It was always a joy to visit and difficult to leave without spending a bit more than you expected! But in recent years it had an unloved feeling, with little in the way of local produce.
Bob and I love our food. When we first got together, our dinner parties were legendary. We rarely started cooking until our guests arrived and then always involved them in the preparation of something we usually fancied from a cookbook! Those evenings were so much fun, full of laughter and, ultimately, good food. About 10 years ago, Bob was diagnosed with CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease). My way of coping was to make sure our diet got even healthier. I started researching ingredients that are more common now, but back then they weren’t really heard of: kombucha, matcha green tea, xylitol, seaweed, Himalayan salt. I struggled to get hold of these ingredients and kept thinking: ‘I wish there was somewhere I could browse through these things so I didn’t have to bulk buy them’. And so the seed was planted.
What is your vision for the Larder?
We always knew we wanted to showcase local produce. We are so lucky to live in the North East, where there are so many amazing, passionate and talented artisan producers. We love finding them and, in some cases, helping them find their feet. We are part of the Produced in Northumberland scheme, which showcases the best Northumberland and its surrounding areas can offer, and they have been instrumental in helping us connect with new suppliers.
What is so important to us is our team – who are like a family – our customers and our suppliers. Without all of these lovely people, we would be nothing. When I walk into the shop on a busy Saturday and see happy customers and hear their amazing comments about the team and the shop, it gives me such a buzz.
What changes have you made to the Larder in the last 5 years?
We have developed the café itself and have turned the whole of upstairs into seating space, as well as installing a new kitchen. The menu was developed based on what I wanted to see served, so it covers the usual suspects such as breakfasts, baked potatoes and sandwiches, as well as some lovely healthy options. Everything is freshly prepared, with local produce used wherever possible and not a microwave in sight! Our chef, Marie, is passionate about her kitchen and what comes out of it, and her scones (especially the chive, bacon and cheese) are renowned!
We are constantly tweaking our range, too. We keep an ear to the ground about food trends, we listen to what our customers want and we attend trade shows (always a highlight of our calendar!). A couple of years ago, we bought out the award-winning Tarset Valley Marmalade from Charlotte Lloyd and Mel – our lovely supervisor who now makes the marmalade on site. We still get excited when new products come in and Christmas, especially, is a time of wonder as gorgeous, must-have produce arrives. Given that we order these around June and July, finally seeing them in the flesh months later is always very exciting.
You’re also launching a new website at the moment – what’s your thinking behind that?
Our first priority was to get the Larder back to ‘what it was’. This has taken us a lot longer than we expected but, as the saying goes, to lose your reputation takes minutes – to get it back takes years! We always knew we wanted an online presence so, in the beginning, we set up a website and pretty much left it to its own devices. We always knew that when the time was right, we would develop it further.
The COVID pandemic really highlighted the need for us to work on our digital presence, especially when the shop was closed to walk-in customers. We were doing a lot of promoting via Facebook and did receive orders on there, but we were acutely aware that we needed to do more online.
What really helped us was a grant from Northumberland Council. That gave us the budget to employ an amazing digital marketing company, Stick Marketing, who have now revamped our website. We were also able to secure Sue Todd, a fantastic food photographer based in Northumberland. If you look at our website now, you’ll see what an amazing job both parties have done. I couldn’t be more pleased.
How has The Corbridge Larder reacted to the recent lockdown restrictions?
Right from the start, we knew that we could source the ingredients and items people wanted, we just needed the customers. When supermarkets struggled to source flour, yeast and toilet rolls, we could still provide them. So we contacted local groups to explain that we could still provide our customers’ weekly needs, deliver them and, most importantly, be a voice at the end of the phone to reassure them that they were not forgotten. This was especially important at the start of the first lockdown, as there were a lot of vulnerable people who weren’t able to get to the shops but still couldn’t obtain a supermarket slot. I’m especially proud of my staff, who continued to work during a very scary period. They kept the Larder alive.
One of our customers, the author LJ Ross, reached out and asked if we could help her reach people in need. We began by supplying groceries to nominated front-line workers. We provided bags of essentials as well as treats, all paid for by Louise. Next, we sent out bulk supplies to local care home workers so that they could divvy up the products amongst themselves. Finally, we reached out to families in deprived areas where, for a number of weeks, we provided a weekly shopping for them. We were helped by our two lovely delivery drivers through this time: Rik, my step-son, and David from Northumberland Pantry. Week after week, they would selflessly deliver groceries and were often humbled by the responses they received.
Louise is a true philanthropist; her actions not only saved the Larder, they also helped a great number of people – not only in providing them with food to eat, but also with faith in humankind. We saw this time and again, communities pulling together to help out the vulnerable. If something good comes out of this pandemic, it’s that.
How is the Larder operating at the moment?
Although we’re now in a second lockdown, we are managing to keep the Deli open due to the safety measures we have in place. Unfortunately, though, we’ve had to close our café for now. But we’re offering takeaway drinks, scones, sandwiches and cakes, and they’re proving very popular.
We have our fingers, toes and everything else crossed that lockdown is lifted at the beginning of December. The run-up to Christmas is typically the make-or-break period for us, as it is for a lot of small businesses, so I’m praying we can all be open. So I’d ask anyone reading this to please, please shop local! I think this is always important, but it’s even more so now.
How do you choose which products to stock?
I have a Wendy! Wendy – now the Larder Manager – stood out as someone who is passionate about food. She has a spooky sixth sense about what sells and a great love of cheese. We’ve pretty much given her free rein over the cheese counter and now I would say ours would rival the very best.
We’re also drawn to suppliers with a good ethos: people who care about their products, how they’re made and packaged. For example, before lockdown this year we found our new crisp supplier, who only sources ingredients within 5 miles of their farm and are among the first to have fully biodegradable packaging. Their crisps taste amazing too!
You’re very active in your local community. Could you tell us how you work with other local businesses?
We love sourcing locally. We buy our ham, beef and pork pies from North Acomb farm, all of our raw meat from JD Hall, the independent butcher in Corbridge, and our fruit and veg from Stobbo’s, the greengrocer in the village. One of our hampers – The Good Read – even includes a book from the Corbridge-based (and award-winning) Forum Books, as Northumberland tea and Northumberland Bakehouse biscuits, so you can enjoy a good read with something to dunk into your cuppa.
Our latest venture is our Corbridge Gin lamp. I’m so excited about this offering! So we recently collaborated with the triple-award winning Pilgrim Spirit to make our very own Corbridge Gin, using botanicals local to the village. The bottle is a beautiful, etched stoneware bottle showcasing the iconic bridge and Pele Tower. Far too nice to throw away! So, once you’ve enjoyed the gin, you can bring the bottle back and we’ll help you transform it into a lamp. You can go to Vintage at the Tower in Corbridge, choose one of their lovely Liberty fabrics, and Gayle will get it made into a beautiful bespoke lampshade for you, made right here in Corbridge! Recycling, tick; local, tick; stunning, tick. You just need to look at the website to see how gorgeous they are. Plus, the only way you can buy the lamp is by buying the bottle of gin first place, which is a bonus!
You’re picking a Corbridge Larder hamper for a loved one’s Christmas present – which one do you go for?
Wow, that is a difficult question. We choose our hampers carefully, based on what customers typically search for, and we love creating hampers that give more than once – ’The Gift that Keeps on Giving’, if you will (thanks Sue for that tagline!). For example, the Afternoon Tea Hamper gives you tea and biscuits straight away, but then you also have the Afternoon Tea in our café to look forward to as well. The Gardener’s Rest Hamper provides you with tea and biscuits to enjoy after a hard day’s labour in the garden, but also gives you seeds to plant and enjoy as the years go on. Personally, I’m so looking forward to getting the Corbridge Gin in store, (hint, hint Bob!).
For opening times, delivery options and all kinds of delightful delicacies, visit: