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Location of new vegan supermarket in Ipswich revealed

PUBLISHED: 12:30 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:29 05 May 2020

Geoffrey Bligh and Philip Rivers of Hank's Deli With Vanessa Penn of Penn Commercial inside the old Maplin store on Carr Street Picture: Nick Powell

Geoffrey Bligh and Philip Rivers of Hank's Deli With Vanessa Penn of Penn Commercial inside the old Maplin store on Carr Street Picture: Nick Powell

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In between delivering food across Suffolk during lockdown, Hank’s Deli & Shop has just signed the lease for a new premises.

Geoffrey Bligh being handed the keys by Vanessa Penn Picture: Philip RiversGeoffrey Bligh being handed the keys by Vanessa Penn Picture: Philip Rivers

Ipswich vegan staple Hank’s Deli has announced that it is opening an all-new vegan supermarket in Ipswich town centre.

Located in the former Maplin store on Carr Street, the announcement of Hank’s Deli & Shop moving to bigger premises and expanding its shopping offer comes less than a year after Geoffrey Bligh and Philip Rivers opened Hank’s Pub & Food on St. Helen’s Street.

Speaking exclusively to the East Anglian Daily Times, Geoffrey Bligh said: “We had actually considered this late last year – but it was not something we could really do just after opening the pub.

“But with all that is going on right now, we really don’t think pubs and restaurants will be in full swing any time soon, so we have looked at this as the perfect time to jump back into the plans.”

Geoffrey Bligh and Philip Rivers of Hank's Deli With Vanessa Penn of Penn Commercial inside the old Maplin store on Carr Street Picture: Nick PowellGeoffrey Bligh and Philip Rivers of Hank's Deli With Vanessa Penn of Penn Commercial inside the old Maplin store on Carr Street Picture: Nick Powell

The supermarket will be the third location that Hank’s has opened in Ipswich, alongside Hank’s Pub & Food and Hank’s Deli on Lloyd’s Avenue.

With veganism on the up, a vegan supermarket simply seemed the next logical step. “The whole vegan landscape has changed so much in the past couple of years,” explained Geoffrey. “It is so much more mainstream now, and people are enjoying vegan products more and more.”

But with vegans often relegated to a single specialist aisle in most supermarkets, or a mere shelf in some instances, Hank’s Deli want its customers to have more choice and less label-checking while shopping.

“A lot of our vegan customers have told us that it would be great if they could just get everything in one place, along with their regular shopping,” Geoffrey said. “The fact they know when they walk in our store, they don’t have to check labels and that they can just shop makes for a great experience for vegans.

Left to right: Jovian Hall, Kelly Will, Nick Powell, Dominik Jahr, Philip Rivers and Geoffrey Bligh Picture: Vanessa PennLeft to right: Jovian Hall, Kelly Will, Nick Powell, Dominik Jahr, Philip Rivers and Geoffrey Bligh Picture: Vanessa Penn

“Many of our customers are not vegan, but enjoy the food, and we are working closely with our suppliers to make sure that we bring unique products that might have only previously been available online, or not even available in the UK.”

Throughout the Coronavirus lockdown, Hank’s Deli has been providing a successful online delivery service across Suffolk – something which Hank’s wishes to continue after lockdown has been lifted.

Geoffrey said: “Our delivery service has been so well-received that it is something we are going to continue with regardless of the pandemic, and being a smaller local business, we can still give that personal experience to customers. We will be planning regular delivery days to the farther-flung areas, and people will be able to sign up for slots for their weekly shops.”

Variety will be key in terms of the stock that Hank’s vegan supermarket will sell, and the range on offer will enable customers to do their entire shop in one place.

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“There really are so many products now,” Geoffrey explained. “From vegan meat alternatives, to milks and cheeses, confectionery, household and laundry products, and cosmetics. There are some products that people don’t think of as being vegan, like household cleaners, but we will carry a range of products that are kinder to animals and to the environment. And of course, there is always the fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Not only does Hank’s wish to provide its customers with an array of products, but it is looking to work alongside local suppliers and businesses, with an aim to help support fellow independents.

“We have already been in touch with a winery on the Shotley Peninsula and will be stocking their wines as soon as they are ready, and local farms that produce juice. We also have local suppliers who make soap, oils and so much more,” Geoffrey said.

Additionally, remaining eco-friendly is another ethos that the supermarket hopes to uphold. “Within the shop, our aim is to try and reduce packaging wherever possible. We have already started packaging many products in film that can be composted at home. Our fruit and veg comes from a local wholesaler, we don’t repackage anything and we never use plastic to wrap anything,” Geoffrey added.

While it might seem like an unpredictable time to take on a new business venture, Geoffrey has faith in his loyal customers, as he said: “It really is a huge space and a big jump for a new business. However, the support and encouragement we get from customers really helps to alleviate any worries. People who know about the move are super excited already.”

However, taking on a new project during the current lockdown situation doesn’t come without its challenges. “Trying to order building materials and equipment is a real challenge. So many companies have reduced workforces, so things are taking much longer to be delivered,” explained Geoffrey.

“We have worked with movers and equipment providers, and are still planning on moving in in about a week. So we may have basic racking and a table to start with, but everything will come along as and when it can. There is a lot to think about in terms of laying out the shop and how the rest of the year might look trying to deal with Covid – so we will probably keep things quite causal for a little while,” he added.

Challenges aside, Geoff and Philip are excited to get underway and show the people of Ipswich how easy it is to incorporate vegan produce into your everyday life. Geoffrey said: “Phil and I have both been really keen to show people that vegan can be ‘normal’, and that it doesn’t have to be difficult to make different choices and still enjoy the things you love.

“Many of our customers tell us how much more they come to town since we’ve opened, so perhaps it’s the start of a high-street revolution. Ipswich has a great town centre and a really wonderful community – I think bringing more reasons for people to come back to town can only be a good thing.”

The letting agent that Hank’s has been working alongside – Penn Commercial – has backed the new vegan venture all the way. “Penn Commercial have been a great support to us,” explained Geoffrey. “From our very first viewings before we opened the deli, to this move, they have helped us find the right locations and work with landlords to set things up.

“Given the difficulties at this time, Penn facilitated everything and in double quick time. One of our loyal customers happens to be a solicitor as well, so were able to help us get the documents signed off on the same day – everything happened so quickly.”

Vanessa Penn of Penn Commercial added: “The team have significantly helped the community stay at home with its efficient ordering and delivery service most important in these times.”

While Hank’s may not be able to throw an opening party as the team had hoped, Geoff insists that in the meantime people will still be able to rely on its doorstep delivery service that it has been providing over the past month.

Geoffrey said: “Of course opening this at this time comes with a bit of a mixed emotion, as we aren’t able to host a grand opening or invite crowds of people to come down and check it out. So for now, we will keep everyone posted on social media and keep the products showing up on doorsteps all over the county.”

Visit the website to stay up to date with Hank’s Deli and its upcoming vegan supermarket.


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