This occasional series is casting a critical eye at some of Ashbourne’s retailers and seeing what lies behind their shop windows. A common criticism of Ashbourne’s High Street is lack of choice and high prices. I really think we should all spend more of our money locally but this is only going to be feasible if there is a good High Street to spend it on. My contention is that many of the critics don’t actually visit the shops to find out what there is in store and that they would be surprised if they did.
Next door to Fresh Choice in Ashbourne is Natural Choice. Run by the knowledgeable and friendly Steve Parker the shop is an Aladdin’s cave of goodies. Some people epitomise the shop as a “health food shop” in my opinion but this really does underplay what it has to offer. My own experience in researching this article just proves it. My previous experience of the shop has been in getting cooking ingredients and ear candles – an eclectic mix.
For cooking ingredients there are some fantastic bargains to be had as soon as you step through the door. I guarantee there will be herbs, spices, flour and grains you will struggle to find elsewhere. Where do you buy your supplies of Eyebright and Elderflowers? One other benefit of buying by weight is that you don’t need to buy quantities which will only go out of date when you only need it for one recipe. I can speak from experience as someone who has been looking for months to find giant couscous only to discover it in Natural Choice when I visited. It’s not only the choice but the sale of dried herbs and spices by weight generally offers enormous savings over the packets and jars in the supermarkets.
Further into the store there are mueslis and other cereals in Natural Choice packaging and on the opposite side of the store a very wide range of gluten-free products. At the back of the store there are a wide range of natural remedies and this is backed up with the advice of the staff in the store.
Natural Choice is a member of the Ashbourne Fair Trade Town Initiative – something we should be proud of http://www.ashbournefairtrade.org.uk/bag.htm. This gave me food for thought for another blog shortly. The shop also participates in the Ashbourne Reward Scheme which effectively offers a 5% discount for loyal customers.
Of course the purpose of this exercise is to compare prices and to show whether it makes financial sense for local people to spend their money with local independent traders rather than with the supermarkets. As with so many of the independent traders they stock products which you can’t find elsewhere and this gives reason alone to Try Ashbourne First. Here are the comparison products for Natural Choice compared with Tesco.com
Pickling Spice – Natural Choice 25g 30p, Tesco 26g (best priced brand) £1.16
Fennel Seed – Natural Choice 25g 35p, Tesco 28g £1.62 – there were better value packs but with a minimum of 100g
Own-brand Muesli – Natural Choice 1kg £1.90 (premium quality), Tesco own brand (standard Swiss-style) 1kg – £1.99
Own-brand Porridge Oats – Natural Choice 1kg £1.20, Tesco Finest own brand £1.70 equivalent
The prices for foodie ingredients are a real revelation and an indisputable local bargain. I am not qualified to comment on the value or knowledge of the natural remedies and therapies but the service and friendliness of the store shines through. The front of the store is deceiving – there is a huge amount in store when you get through the door. Pay Steve and his team a visit and Try Ashbourne First.