This article is part of a new series by Wicked Leeks, Sustainable Cities, exploring what sustainable food means to those living in the city.
A new independent grocery store in South London is bringing small-scale farmers and their products into the city, connecting the neighbourhood with sustainable food.
Gladwell’s Grocery & Deli in Camberwell opened its doors on 19 March to sell organic veg, high welfare meat, MSC certified fish, sustainable bread, alongside other high-quality produce from artisanal makers and producers.
“There is a growing demand for food that is good for people, the planet and the people that grow it,” said co–founder James Dye, his store showcasing sustainable producers such as meat from Fosse Meadows, sustainable grain supplier Wildfarmed, cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy and Mons Cheesemongers and veg from Langridge Organics.
“We are making high-quality food available all in one place,” Dye said, speaking at a launch event last week attended by a mix of producers, makers, and hospitality entrepreneurs.
Dye also sees the store as a crucial link between the rural and urban and explained that it provides an otherwise rare occasion to connect city inhabitants, small-scale producers and their stories.
“There’s a real disconnect between the city and the countryside,” said Dye. To help bridge this gap he said: “We’re taking the staff down to the farms and every Saturday we’re going to have a different food producer in the store to tell their story.”
“It’s shops like these that support small-scale producers like us,” said Ross Mitchell, founder of London Smoke & Cure. “Without them, we don’t exist.”
Ben Cooper from Mons Cheesemongers said: “It’s about making people care about food again, they (Gladwell’s) have the role of telling people the story and context.”
“People need to understand why these products cost more,” said Alfie Hall Tan from British cured meat producer, Crown & Queue. “We don’t get a chance to talk to people in-depth, but the staff here can communicate why it costs what it costs.”
Dye, also a director of nearby gastropub The Camberwell Arms, had the idea for the store during the successive lockdowns when the government restaurant forced his restaurant to close.
“During the pandemic, we were shut, so we used all the produce from our suppliers to set up a deli,” he said.
“We could support our producers as well as offer people amazing produce that’s normally only available to restaurants,” said Dye. “It was really interesting seeing people’s reactions to good food.”
“Camberwell doesn’t have a butcher or fishmonger,” he continued. “Lockdown has changed people’s perceptions. It’s proved that every neighbourhood needs a local independent grocery store.”
Dye accepted that prices at the store could be exclusive for many, especially with the cost of living rising and being based in the area undergoing gentrification, as Gladwell’s overlooks new luxury flats where the Camberwell job centre once stood.
But he said that the store has partnered up with St Giles Pantry in Camberwell, a food hub that provides healthy food and advice to those in food poverty.
“We’re going to make a donation of a five pounds to the St Giles Pantry for every veg box sold,” said Dye. “We’re trying to give back.”