Gingerbread® staff hit the road on a good-natured meet-and-greet countywide tour of their suppliers.
The special minibus day trip took them hundreds of miles up mountain roads, down the M6 and across winding country lanes.
“We collaborate with some brilliant small businesses in Cumbria – as well as selling their products – so it’s important that our staff understand the products and the people behind them,” explained Joanne Hunter, co-owner of Grasmere Gingerbread® who organised the event.
“Now, when customers ask questions about a particular product, they can all answer with real intimate knowledge – having seen how everything is made and by whom.”
The spring outing took nine members of staff to the Penrith Toffee Shop, Runkels Crafts, Moorland Candles, Kennedys Fine Chocolates, Tebay Services, Country Flavour Fudge, Farrer’s Tea & Coffee Merchants and Pure Lakes.
The business-to-business familiarisation visit drew enthusiastic responses from Grasmere Gingerbread® staff.
Barry Allison, General Assistant, said it was “awesome to meet our amazing producers and put faces to names” whilst Emil Barna, General Assistant, said he saw “parts of Cumbria I’ve never seen before”.
Grasmere Gingerbread® prides itself on promoting its suppliers via features on its website.
On a dedicated page entitled ‘Working Together’ every business is featured with hyperlinks to their own websites.
Business organisations have praised Grasmere Gingerbread® for its forward thinking and philosophy of reaching out.
“Cumbrian businesses need to work together and support each other, partly because of our remote geography and partly because it leads to all sorts of amazing collaborations,” explained Joanne.
After leaving Grasmere first thing in the morning, first stop was the Penrith Toffee Shop, nationally-known for its superb toffee and fudge.
He later told Joanne: “What a great pleasure it was to see you and your staff this morning! What a nice bunch of people you have working for you and I hope they found the tour worthwhile.”
Jaws suitably loosened from all the chewing, staff climbed back on the bus and headed to Ainstable to meet woodworker Barbara Runkel.
She supplies wooden gingerbread figures for the wedding favours boxes, as well as gingerbread key rings and fridge magnets.
All handmade by Barbara in her workshop, she uses natural stains and oils to finish them off.
She said to Joanne afterwards: “I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and I was thrilled at the interest your staff showed in what I make and how I do it.”
Then it was back on the minibus and an hour’s drive uphill towards Alston, the highest market town in England at 1,000 feet above sea level.
The delightful Moorland Candles is based here.
Made from paraffin wax and beeswax and vegetable oil, the company’s beautiful candles are highly sought after and have been featured in several TV period dramas.
They supply ginger candles to Grasmere Gingerbread®.
Owner Ted Thompson was particularly impressed by the inquisitive natures of all the Grasmere Gingerbread® team.
“What a friendly, enthusiastic and interested group of people,” he told Joanne after being deluged with a range of questions from how the candles are coloured to how long it takes to dip them.”
Suitably illuminated with candle-making knowledge, it was back on the minibus and a cross-country tour of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to Orton.
This lovely village midway between Penrith and Kendal is the home of Kennedys Fine Chocolates.
They supply plain chocolate ginger bars to Grasmere Gingerbread® and staff got a scrumptious tour of the chocolate making facilities and a short talk on the business history before enjoying some samples with steaming fresh coffee!
The next stop took the group onto the busy M6 and a comfort stop at the northbound Tebay Services which stocks Cumberland Rum Butter made by Grasmere Gingerbread®.
After a brisk half-hour lunch the minibus headed east towards Kirkby Stephen, the home of Country Flavour Fudge.
The Keogh family make sumptuous fudges in their own back kitchen home using locally-sourced ingredients.
Jo Keogh said: “It was great having a visit from the Grasmere Gingerbread® team and being able to share the story with them about how we developed our fudge and how we make it today.
“It was really useful being able to answer some of the questions people asked and I’m glad the samples went down well!”
On a lighter note Jo remembered Yasmine Hunter, daughter of Joanne, answering the telephone with a proper telephone voice when she was just a little girl.
Yasmine, the Marketing, Sales and Events Executive at Grasmere Gingerbread®, is now 22 and she still has a proper telephone voice!
Fudge time over, it was time to hit the road and head towards Kendal and the home of Farrer’s Tea and Coffee Merchants.
Situated in a Grade 2 listed building, this prestigious company began trading in 1819 and supplies teas and coffees across the world – and to Grasmere Gingerbread®. The Grasmere Gingerbread team toured the HQ’s tea and coffee lounges and learned some of skills involved in roasting coffee beans and blending teas.
Joanne said: “The various aromas of the teas and coffees at Farrer’s were amazing and this was a real highlight of the day.”
The final stop was Pure Lakes in Staveley.
An award-winning producer of natural skincare products, their association with Grasmere Gingerbread® began in 2010 when they producing a ginger and orange hand cream.
They now supply ginger hand wash, ginger body lotion and ginger lip balm.
Claire McKeever, Director of Pure Lakes Skincare said she was delighted to host the team from Grasmere Gingerbread “especially when they brought with them some of their delicious gingerbread for us to sample!”
Grasmere Gingerbread® has built a strong Cumbrian business, one grounded in the local community, and Pure Lakes is very proud to partner with them on a number of products.”
Shirleyann Gledhill, Sales Administrator at Grasmere Gingerbread® was one of nine members of staff to join the away day.
“I am office-based but as I deal directly with our customers over the telephone it’s important that I have intimate knowledge of all the products to guide them through their purchases,” she explained.
“This was a fantastic day out for me. I was bowled over by the passion and dedication of all our suppliers and their enthusiasm at working with us.
“Joanne has always instilled in us the value of working with other local producers and now I really understand why.”
Joanne hopes to repeat the tour later this year, taking the other remaining members of staff along.
“We received a warm welcome everywhere and the day exceeded my expectations,” she added. “A big thanks to everyone we met – it was a day to remember!”