On a beam in Kingsgate Wines and Provisions is the Latin phrase 'multum in parvo', which means 'much in little'. The description is pretty apt considering the store, which sits between Winchester Cathedral and its public school, offers more than 1,500 different lines, a dedicated meat counter and more than 100 fine wines - all in a modest 700 sq ft.
Kingsgate dates back to 1996 when Graeme Jameson, landlord of the Wykeham Arms across the road, saw the opportunity to take over the shop and post office and use it to stock fine wines to match his extensive selection of Burgundies. Today Kingsgate remains the only independent wine merchant in the town, but also stocks local cheeses and deli food as well as everyday items. " We are well known in the town for our top-end Burgundies," says manager Tim Pride. "But the business realised early on that it needed to stock more than wine and service the local community as a whole ."
Pride has been running Kingsgate since 2002 following Graeme's death, and during his five years as manager much has changed. The store was forced to close its post office in 2003, one of four post offices across the town that were shut down, despite the fact it was still bringing in good revenue.
It has had to increase its range not only to fill the gap left behind but to cater for its widening customer base. "We have had to become more prepared to experiment with products because our customers ask for things that we sometimes don't stock," says Pride.
The store also has to contend with competition from one of the largest farmers markets in the UK, held twice a month, which is a mixed blessing. "We are in direct competition with the farmers market when it is on, which is hard," he says. "But it does get people used to eating fresh veg, local produce and good meat, which helps us."
Increased interest in supporting local producers has encouraged the store to widen its supplies of local food. Its meat, including a large selection of game, comes in daily from butcher John Robinson in nearby Stockbridge, bread comes from a local baker and products such as honey and ice cream are sourced nearby.
Pride says he wants to increase the amount of locally grown fruit and veg he sells as well as more local cheese but is cautious not to go too far down the farmers market and premium deli route and risk alienating some of his customers, who range from college students and families to the city's older generation.
So while the store stocks truffle paste, magnums of Champagne and various pâtés, it will always stock cupboard essentials such as breakfast cereals and ketchup. "It's about getting the balance between stocking interesting products and essentials, and also pricing. We don't want to be seen as a very expensive specialist. That puts people off coming in to buy a packet of crisps."
The personal touch extends beyond food and wine. The company also acts as agent for a local dry cleaners and it takes orders of bespoke cuts and meat for the local butcher. "We are always looking at what else we can fit in," says Pride. "It is always tough because of the size we are and where we are but it is amazing how much space you can find when you put your mind to it."n