The Quarter Store
Supporting Hackney's food businesses
The Quarter Store is Hackney's newest home delivery food service and grocer. The name is a hybrid of war time quartermaster providing needed rations and a corner store. Shops we perhaps took for granted in the past - no longer.
Founder Max has always been a foodie, but it took lockdown to turn his passion into a business. He has set up several enterprises in his time and has worked in venture capital investing in startups so seen things from both sides of the coin. However in the lead up to launching he'd been freelancing and like so many suddenly found himself out of work as the ramifications of lockdown hit. This gave him the impetus to do something to help out locally.
"I wanted bread and coffee, and I wanted to support local businesses but it was difficult to get what I needed in one shop, with long queues and not knowing who was still selling or not."
Max's idea was based on combining local businesses into a single online store that people could come to. "The idea behind the Quarter Store was to bring local businesses together and help them to deliver. I reached out to a load of local business. I have around 20 now and now they are reaching out to me. The Quarter Store offers you the chance to buy from some of Hackney's best independent food brands."
The menu is mouth watering and gives you a real sense of the breadth of great food brands we are lucky enough to have in Hackney. Jam from Chatsworth Road's own London Borough of Jam, breads from E5 Bakehouse, pasta from Lu Tua Pasta, meats from Cobble Lane Cured. Washed down with some 5 Points Ale (or Agua De Madre for those looking to reduce their lockdown alcohol consumption.) Keeping up with the community feel, Agua De Madre sublet the front of their fermentary in Dalston to enable Max to run his business.
These businesses are the passions, dreams and hard graft of the people who run them, who have been so hard hit. A good example is Diletta, who just set up her Italian wine and olive oil business, Diwinegrapes in Netil Market when the lockdown was called. With the market closed, The Quarter Store has offered her a vital route to market.
The Quarter Store combines several trends that have come to the fore during these strange times. We are all far more community minded and The Quarter Store is only championing local brands, many so hard hit by corona. According to Max: "I could see the pain that was occurring in local food businesses, one of the hardest hit during lockdown. Many were attempting home delivery, but without established distribution channels or online marketing they were struggling to get the message out."
Deliveroo with its established supply chain and online platform was the obvious partner. It wouldn't make sense for individual businesses to use Deliveroo due to the margins it charges. However the costs of delivery shared made it far less punitive for the businesses involved. Max said: "Deliveroo offers the opportunity to share the delivery costs across all the businesses rather than one."
Another challenge is needing to rely on Deliveroo's fixed radius of delivery, within 3 miles of the store and Max is seeing demand from outside this area. This is something he'd like to look at in time. But so far the benefits far outweigh the downsides. The newness of the business is apparent talking to Max.
He said: "Operationally it's me and a few family and friends. We literally opened on Saturday with handwritten sings in the window, I am scrappy at the moment."
Most startups will tell you the business never quite goes in the direction you expect and one area that has surprised Max is the number of people who are using The Quarter Store as a physical shop, popping by to pick up produce direct. This is something that has coincided with lockdown measures easing. He's just promoting it through instagram and word of mouth which is clearly spreading fast.
His idea is very relevant for our times but in Max's view is would be "quite compelling" even if corona hadn't happened. According to Max: "If someone said you could buy everything in one go and support local businesses I think I would. People are more attuned to where they are buying food, wanting to support local, and people are finding solace in fresh bread. People are making it or buying it."
The Quarter Master's mission resonates with these times and the desire to support local is likely to be a trend that remains long after corona. That is one thing we should be grateful for.