Made from Scratch in Henleaze: 'You can show people you care through food'
MARK TAYLOR meets Derek and Lynn Mars, the brains behind new food venture Made from Scratch in Henleaze
When it came to finding a suitable name for their new food business, Derek and Lynn Mars didn't have to look very far.
Made from Scratch seems entirely appropriate for a shop that specialises in home- cooked, traditional meals – but Lynn admits her husband nearly chose an alternative.
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"I spend my whole time thinking of food so Derek did think about calling the shop Constantly Craving," laughs Lynn.
"He says he's never met anybody who gets more excited by a new pasta than a new pair of shoes, but I just love food and cooking."
Made from Scratch opened last week in a former jewellers shop on Henleaze Road.
A food and lifestyle shop, it sells high quality meals to take away, cakes, chocolates and a range of kitchen gifts, including cookbooks, ceramics and locally made tea towels, aprons and napkins from textile designer Jacqui Watkins.
It's the first joint venture for the couple, who relocated to Bristol 18 months ago.
She met Derek when they were both running the training college for the Ford motor company in the Midlands.
Prior to working for Ford, they had both enjoyed high-flying careers in retail and management.
Derek worked in luxury retail sales and training for premium mobile phone company Vertu and he also worked for Bentley cars.
Lynn's background is as an operations manager and project manager, working on contracts with high-profile clients such as Deloittes.
Their joint experience in retail and operations has proven very useful in setting up Made from Scratch.
Lynn says: "My work in the past involved setting up operations for companies and Derek used to train people to sell £6,000 luxury mobile phones in Paris and New York, so he has a real insight into how a shop should look and feel.
"It's all about the comfort you get when you walk in the door, the customer service, and doing something that pleases people and makes people want to come back."
The food side of Made from Scratch is Lynn's domain. She has always been a passionate home cook and has three grown-up sons, aged 18 to 23, so she has always cooked for the family.
Although self-taught, she attended Leith's cookery school to learn additional skills – but she wants the food at Made from Scratch to be simple and good value rather than fancy.
Lynn cooks all the dishes fresh each day and they are available for people to take home and simply reheat in the oven. Cooking instructions are given to each customer.
The menu changes every day and dishes so far have included macaroni cheese, beef lasagne, spicy beef chilli, shepherd's pie, Hungarian goulash and Devon crab tortellini.
Meals costs £3.75 for a single portion or £6.99 for two people, which represents good value considering the quality of the raw ingredients being used.
Keen to forge links with local independent businesses, she uses Ruby & White butchers on Whiteladies Road for her meat, Herberts Bakery in Montpelier for the bread and Lloyds Greengrocers a few doors down Henleaze Road. The cakes are supplied by Clifton Cakes.
"By using seasonal produce and cooking in small batches it keeps the costs down, despite the fact we are using the best ingredients and there is less wastage.
"The joy of using the local greengrocer, for example, is the fact I can walk down and look at the produce every morning, see what's good that day and write the day's menu around what's available, rather than having the ideas for dishes and then shopping for the ingredients. It's quite unusual to go about it that way, but it makes complete sense to me."
The meals are served in either biodegradable bamboo containers or ceramic dishes and there is a 10 per cent discount on the next meal when customers return the ceramic dish to the shop.
Derek and Lynn, who live in Clifton Village, spent a long time researching their business and studying different parts of Bristol before choosing a site in Henleaze, but they say the location is perfect for what they are trying to achieve.
"The demographic of Henleaze appealed to us because it's not studenty and there is a good range of retired people with disposable income but also lots of families with children.
"This is a bustling high street full of independent businesses and I hope we attract those people who want something a bit different but who want to source locally, rather than buying ready meals from supermarkets."
Lynn says they are targeting everybody who enjoys proper home cooking but who either don't have the time to cook or don't have the necessary skills.
"It's aimed at people who can't cook, which can mean young or middle-aged, or people who really enjoy their food but simply don't have the time to cook when they get home from work.
"We wanted to offer something that was high quality and home cooked but nothing too fancy, just really good, local ingredients, in dishes that were familiar to people.
"These are meals that can feed the whole family and we've had a lot of interest in the first week.
"We've done a lot of research and we've pitched all of our prices just under equivalent dishes in supermarkets just to be competitive.
"Nothing costs more than £7 for two people, unless it's something like a luxury fish pie."
In the first week there has already been a demand for specialist dishes, including gluten-free, and Lynn says they are happy to cook bespoke meals with at least 24 hours' notice. She wants locals to feel they can ask her to cook anything within reason, as she wants the shop to be part of the community.
"In such a busy world, it's nice for families to sit around the table and eat a meal and if we can help to make it easier for people, that's great.
"One lady has just put in an order for a whole week's worth of gluten-free dishes. Another elderly man has asked me to cook a Sunday roast for him because his wife recently died and he has the family coming over for lunch. We don't usually open Sundays, but I'm happy to do that for him.
"I think you can really show people you care through food. This might sound mad, but if there's somebody in the community who's lonely and who wants to eat a nice meal, I'm more than happy to help.
"If I've got a skill, I'd rather use that skill to help somebody than work 14 hours a day working for a corporate company."
Made from Scratch 47 Henleaze Road, Bristol, BS9 4JU. Tel 0750 080 2561 or 0750 080 2510