On Tuesday (this was sometime back in July!) I had decided to make a risotto but had run out of arborio rice. So I go down into the town to get some. It’s not far and I can call in at the organic shop, Panacea by the Teatro Villamarta and Tabanco el Pasaje.
So I get there and no arborio rice, so I thought I would call in at a shop called Aderezarte in Plaza Angustias half way between home at the Plazuela and Panacea. It’s one of my favourite shops and I nearly called in there on the way to Panacea. I walk in and the place feels a bit disorganised or disordered – it just didn’t feel right. After many years working in supermarkets and having been trained as a graduate trainee with Marks and Spencer I sense these things as soon as I walk into a shop. So I ask the lady (who I now know is called Conchi) what is happening and why are they selling things at a discount.
Well I was pretty shocked when she said that they were going to have to close the shop and they needed to sell all the stock.
‘Why are you having to close the shop?’ I ask. She sadly explained that her husband has started to show signs of dementia and she needs to be with him. The care system in Spain relies totally on family in these scenarios. They are only just beginning to have specialist dementia care.
‘So what about Raquel?’ I ask. Raquel I find out is Conchi’s niece and her co-owner. Conchi explained that Raquel would love to keep the shop on, but doesn’t want to do it on her own. So then I find myself asking (this was a case of my mouth speaking before my conscious mind had caught up. I still don’t know where the question came from – it didn’t seem as though it were me).
‘And if she had a business partner do you think she would carry on?’
‘Oh yes’, Conchi replied. So I said, ‘well I’m prepared to be that business partner – can I meet with Raquel?’ So then Raquel walked in and we agreed to have coffee the next morning before the shop opened.
Our meeting was a delight. I find that I get on very well with Raquel. I learn that she is from León, as is Conchi, but she came to Jerez when Conchi made the suggestion to open a shop based upon artisan products from León. So aunt and niece set up together. Apparently León is known for having wonderful chorizo and cheese (queso) and I find many more wonderful food products. So even though I am British and my Spanish is not quite fluent I find myself now the co-owner of a fantastic artisan food shop called Aderezarte. The name alone is worth something since they have registered it and I must confess I have visions of franchising the brand. I can offer my business and retail expertise – it’s not for nothing I spent 4 years with M&S and then 1 year with Somerfield (I wish it had been longer, but the dire financial situation led to me being made redundant) and time doing consultancy work for the Belgian supermarket group Sarma Penney and Sainsburys in the UK and a brilliant sojourn with Disney where all I seemed to do was play – but also learned huge amounts about customer service.
I did some due diligence before I started and looked at the figures from the time the shop opened two years ago and it has had a 30% increase in takings year on year. We would need to lift the sales even more in order to make a profit, but the shop is beginning to move into profit (excluding substantial set-up costs). That’s not a bad record and one I can live with. However what I can’t fathom out is how Spain works the business basis. In the UK I would have to buy Conchi out. It’s not at all like that here and right now I am learning day by day how businesses work in Spain. They don’t as far as I can gather, favour entrepreneurs, something that I would dearly love to change if I get the chance. I have noticed that shops don’t seem to grow naturally here in Spain but remain one shop entities and I am now beginning to learn why this is. However that is apparently one of the things that a new Spanish Government has to do when they finally get that sorted out (after a 3rd set of elections). With my years in facilitation that is another thing I would dearly love to organise – all the parties actually being professionally facilitated to arrive at a solution – but I don’t think Spain does facilitation let alone democracy.
So now I will be selling the wonderful legumbres and especial (spices) that are characteristic of Aderezarte. I will be able to make supplier visits – I already have plans to visit a vinaigre de Jerez supplier and a ecological salt manufacturer in San Fernando on the way to Cádiz. I have also been meeting some of the customers who are wonderful. I could write a book just based upon them alone!