An ancient Roman phrase has shaped the past seven years of Susannah Hewett’s life.
Ab ovo usque ad mala, which translates literally to ‘from eggs to apples’, gave a name to the farm shop established by Hewett and her husband Craig. It also describes the business’ philosophy.
“It means from beginning to end as, in Roman times, meals started with egg and ended with apple,” she explains. “And we want our shop to be somewhere you could shop for a full meal, from beginning to end.”
This full-basket strategy has helped the business build a loyal following, although Hewett’s family already had a strong reputation in the village of Hurst Green. They have lived in the area since the 1960s and were apple farmers before expanding by opening Lodge Farm Shop in 1972.
Hewett’s parents sold the business, and the former site of Lodge Farm Shop stood derelict for 15 years. When an opportunity came to buy the land, Hewett and her husband seized it.
Design and development of Eggs to Apples was also a family affair, with Hewett’s brother heavily involved.
The farm shop building is described as a modern take on a traditional barn, featuring solar panels and a 6,000-litre rainwater harvester for grey water use. It’s insulated using material made from recycled glass bottles and is clad in locally prevalent sweet chestnut.
The doors opened in December 2014 and were closed for just one day in March 2020 when Covid restrictions came into force.
When the shop reopened 24 hours later, the floor had been reconfigured so it could safely serve the local community. The business also developed a delivery service that attracted 100 orders in its first week.
“We’re not an essential food shop – we don’t sell basic, low-priced products,” says Hewett. “But that period of time highlighted to us that we were essential to the community if some of the other avenues weren’t available.”
Eggs to Apples’ work during the early days of the pandemic was a key reason for it being declared south east regional winner in the Farm Shop & Deli Retail Awards this year.
“It’s not often that people in this industry can step back, and winning this award makes you step back and realise you’ve done something good,” says Hewett.
Now, as restrictions ease, she is keen to rebuild elements of the business that were hampered by the pandemic, such as customer service.
In the longer term, the business is planning an extension that will enable it to create a larger café area and a dedicated fresh produce area.
“Fresh produce is how we get our full basket shop. It’s how we get our repeat regulars, and it’s why they will come back once or twice a week.”
Are you a specialist retailer looking to source the best quality local and regional produce? Visit the Farm Shop & Deli Show 2022 to find trend-setting food and drink from hundreds of British suppliers, plus the latest technology and industry insight. Register your interest now