Broadway Deli & Grocery launches new wellbeing initiative

Jan, Elena and Diana pose outside the store during lockdown (photo courtesy of Broadway Deli & Groce

Jan, Elena and Diana pose outside the store during lockdown (photo courtesy of Broadway Deli & Grocery) - Credit: Archant

Jan Robijns of The Broadway Deli & Grocery in Woodford Green reflects on the ups and downs of 2020, while revealing an interesting new health and wellbeing initiative for 2021

Strict measures were put in place at The Broadway very early on during lockdown (photo courtesy of B

Strict measures were put in place at The Broadway very early on during lockdown (photo courtesy of Broadway Deli & Grocery) - Credit: Archant

The Broadway Deli & Grocery, which has become a staple of the local community, with its delivery service proving a godsend during the lockdowns. Here owner Jan Robijns reflects on that busy time while revealing an interesting new health and wellbeing initiative

It’s been quite a year, eh? How was 2020 for you personally?

2020 has been a year that hasn’t stopped amazing me. It all kicked off really nicely back in January, with more and more people discovering our shop and what we do. We had just celebrated our first anniversary and both the grocery side and the coffee bar were doing well.

Then, a month or so later, we learned about this virus in a land far, far away and very early on, our manager Siobhan raised various issues and was quick to pre-empt possible scenarios of how the virus could impact the health and safety of our customers and team. I am very glad she did. It allowed us to put strict measures in place from day one.

In March, when things really started to heat up, I was really struck by how ready so many people were to watch out for each other. During the early days it was almost comical to notice how people did their utmost best not to cough whilst in the shop – just in case it would get misconstrued. But it got pretty serious soon after that, especially when the panic buying hit us and we started to look like stock brokers, always on one or two phone calls to suppliers, shouting ‘buy, buy, buy’. But we managed to keep supplies coming, sometimes through contacts we hadn’t spoken to for over a decade, other times by elbowing our way through the supply chain.

Jan and Federica Amati (photo courtesy of Broadway Deli & Grocery)

Jan and Federica Amati (photo courtesy of Broadway Deli & Grocery) - Credit: Archant


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How was business?

When the first lockdown happened, real panic struck for many people who found themselves cut off from supplies. And that’s when the most amazing thing happened. Within days we managed to start a group of about 50 customers who volunteered to deliver groceries and supplies to those stuck at home. It really strengthened our faith in humanity. Because of them, we were able to help almost 500 people or households during that period.

We launched our website to allow people to send us their shopping lists, which we then tried to match with what we offered. We started to collaborate with The Bearded Butcher in Buckhurst Hill for meat and Yes Chef for fruit and vegetables, both businesses which are run by genuine people that stand for the same high level of quality and sustainability as we do.

But he pressure on the shop mounted so much that we decided to close our doors to people coming in and browsing and started only taking orders online and over the phone for collection or delivery. The shop started to look like a warehouse, which – admittedly – made me cringe at times. It was a manic period that lasted the whole month of April, until the big retailers were getting back on track and able to supply again.

Our whole team has been more than fabulous. I don’t think I could wish for a nicer, better and more amazing bunch of people. I need to put a spotlight on our own Diana, who during the first lockdown single-handedly managed the whole operation of getting orders taken, picked and delivered, whilst being on the phone to customers the whole time and doing it all with such incredible energy and positivity.

And speaking of ‘positive energy’: this is the dominating feeling of what this whole year has left me with. I have seen so much good in people, so much resilience, togetherness, readiness to help others and strength to cope with sometimes very lonely or trying situations. It has really humbled us.

And now you’re turning your attention to a local healthy eating and fitness initiative?

Everything we do in the shop is inspired by our customers and measured against our own interests, lifestyles and preferences. Last year many of us went through a period of very confusing eating and drinking habits, myself included.

Through the shop I have been able to get to know an impressive number of local people who are professionals and specialists within the health arena. I felt it would be very relevant to try and find ways to work together. The aim is to create a hub of local specialists, from the ladies who provide our freshly baked banana bread to personal trainers, yoga teachers and registered nutritionists, to offer some guidance or support to people looking for more balanced lifestyles.

Can you explain how the initiative will work exactly?

Our resident nutritionist is Federica Amati who has been a regular customer right from the start and knows our products. The idea is to have Federica put together shopping lists and recipe ideas for improved nutritional health on our website and in store. Customers will be able to purchase nutritionist-approved bundles for themselves, a loved one or the whole family. We will also be able to connect our customers with fitness specialists and holistic medicine practitioners like Abi Adams, a local specialist in women’s hormones.

To have the opportunity to work on initiatives locally, with great people that we have come to know really well is a really exciting prospect for us.

Do you think people have acquired a greater appreciation of good quality food and drink as a result of the pandemic?

Yes absolutely! I think cooking and eating good food at home has become a much bigger part of our daily lives. We have more time to prepare, cook and eat together with our household, and we all appreciate how important it is to be in good physical and mental health. This pandemic has put better health on everyone’s agenda and good food is at the centre of that.

Once we do come out of the other side of this, what are your hopes and aspirations?

If one thing has become a buzzword, it is ‘local’. Buzzwords usually don’t last long, but I would like to see this continue building even when people can go back to their places of work and ‘local’ becomes more scattered again. After a confusing year, I would like to try to bring together a community of like-minded local individuals who see health as wealth, and continue to make the best quality food and supplements available to everybody. But don’t worry – enjoying something is also healthy, so people can still find great chocolate and selected fine wines in the shop.

9 The Broadway, Woodford Green IG8 0HL;