A former Army Commando who bought a local greengrocer’s shop three years ago, is bucking the trend on the high street, after significantly expanding and modernising the business, which will double the size of its team this year as it develops a major online offering championing Yorkshire’s finest independent artisan businesses.
In 2017, Simon Fishwick bought Earnshaws of Horbury, which has traded from retail premises on Queen Street in Horbury since the 1950s. He renamed the business The Green Berry, with the strapline ‘fruit & veg on parade’ in tribute to his former military career.
Simon joined the Army at 16 and completed the arduous Royal Marine Commando Course, earning him the coveted green beret. He then put himself forward to join the notorious P Company and was rewarded with the maroon beret before he completed the famous parachute course. Simon served throughout the world including several years in Iraq.
In 2009 he returned to the UK and offered personal security services to high-profile business figures, pop stars and Premiership footballers. However, it was on a return trip to his hometown of Crigglestone near Horbury that he spotted a ‘for sale’ sign outside the local greengrocer and decided there and then that the time was right for a new challenge.
It has been a major success and the business has served more than 50,000 customers in the past 10 months alone, as well as launching a free delivery service throughout the Wakefield area.
In 2020, local man Neil Hargill, who Simon has known since school, joined the business. Neil comes from a retail background and has online experience. He has spearheaded the launch of an e-commerce website offering next day delivery nationwide on approximately 1,000 products from lots of local, independent businesses and farmers.
Products on offer include everything from bread, deserts and cakes through to drinks, dairy products and cheeses, in addition to the company’s wide-ranging fruit and vegetable offering. The website has also recently launched a fast-growing pet food category, as well as an eco-friendly range of laundry, dishwashing and household cleaning products.
Since 2017, turnover has quadrupled, and The Green Berry now employs a team of six which will double in size this year to coincide with the company expanding into new warehouse premises later this summer that will support the growth of the online side of the business.
Simon said: “Working in Iraq was extremely dangerous, and I lost a lot of friends there. The challenging environment in which we operated was also strangely exciting and I found myself craving a return to the action. I knew if I was going have real purpose in civvy street, I needed to find an anchor, which is what brought me back to my hometown of Wakefield. When I saw the local greengrocer was for sale, I dived straight in.
“It’s been a very steep learning curve. I haven’t had a day off since 2019 and regularly work more than 100 hours a week, and even delivered on Christmas Day, but I’ve loved every minute of it and the feedback we receive from the local community is fantastic.
“I run it like a military operation and although our price points are a little higher than the supermarkets, our products are much better quality and fresher, as well as coming in eco-friendly packaging wherever possible.
“When the pandemic hit, we started offering boxes that contained a week’s supply of bread, milk, eggs, vegetables, fruit and salad, for £25. We posted about it on social media and were immediately selling, packing and delivering 80 every day in the local area, which showed us the potential to expand online, and Neil’s expertise has helped make this scalable.”
Neil said: “Following the success of the isolation boxes, we’ve quickly established an online presence, and this will be a key part of our future growth. Our ethos is about offering customers all types of exceptional products that you don’t typically find in supermarkets, that are all produced to a very high standard by independent Yorkshire businesses.
“The Green Berry’s website is continually growing and has instantly become hugely popular. We are on target to continue our impressive business growth and it’s certainly a very exciting time for the business.”