The pandemic has changed the way we have shopped, from lockdown panic buying to favouring local businesses.
Thankfully we’re no longer going into battle over toilet paper, but it hasn’t all been elbows at the ready.
Indeed, there is a tight-knit community at the heart of Bare in Ellon where you can grab a wonderfully nostalgic wicker basket and help yourself to items wrapped in brown paper.
Even 50 years ago, this wouldn’t have been so unusual, with the weekly shop coming from the butchers, greengrocer and fishmonger as opposed to a chain superstore.
Proud owners of Bare, Kirsty Colvin and Jay Thom, aren’t harking back to the past however, their steadfast vision pays homage to a better future.
You won’t find reams of plastic in their shop, which can be found in the square in Ellon.
Part refillery, part fresh produce and all kinds of delicious things in between, Bare is a sustainable living shop.
Kirsty was inspired to set up Bare in a bid to make it easier for people to live a greener lifestyle, all while supporting local producers.
It has been just over two years since Bare first opened its doors, and it now stocks dozens of small independent businesses.
And with hundreds of devotees thanks to easy prep meal kits with minimal waste, Kirsty and her partner Jay now have an entire team behind them.
The couple have also gone into business with Mike and Emma Gaffney, and are churning out mouth-watering takeaway pizza at The Gaff, conveniently right next door to Bare.
We caught up with the pair and found out why a fledgling idea blossomed into an exciting way of life.
What made you decide to launch a sustainable living shop?
Jay was working offshore a lot at the time, and I was a stay at home mum for quite a few years. I wanted something for myself, as happy as I was being with the boys.
I knew one day they would both be at school, and I wondered what I’d do with my day. I wanted to be doing my own thing.
So I looked into sustainable products, which was something we already incorporated into our lifestyle, and it went from there.
Why that niche in particular?
Well, obviously we believe in the concept behind sustainable items. There wasn’t a whole lot around at the time that could help people to become more sustainable without spending a fortune.
I took a bit of a leap and posted on some community groups on social media, asking how people would receive a shop to help with sustainable living, and enable them to shop plastic-free.
The feedback was actually really good, so then I started putting surveys out.
I created a business plan, and then it just so happened that there was a shop in the square available.
What did you stock when you first launched?
So it was all cupboard staples like rice, pasta, lentils – that kind of thing.
We wanted to give people an alternative, where they could look as close to home as possible.
It also enables people to buy as much of something as they need, so you don’t need to buy a plastic bag of rice if you know you just need a set amount for dinner.
We also stocked – and still do – sustainable cleaning products, refill options and soap bars.
When we opened in November 2019, I genuinely thought that Bare was going to be something for myself.
Then Christmas happened and we continued to do really well. By the time we got to February, I was starting to wonder how I would cope with the upkeep of the business and be in the shop.
Jay was still working offshore at the time, so the plan was for him to take a small career break.
Then the pandemic hit.
So the pandemic impacted Bare?
Yes, things went absolutely mad. Everyone’s outlook on the way they shopped changed completely because people kept more local.
I think there was also greater awareness about shopping more sustainably.
Our delivery service was so busy that we actually had to close the shop.
With the supermarket shelves bare, our fruit and veg boxes alongside bread and baking stuff was very popular.
People came across us and then they kept coming back. We had – and still do – milk and eggs from Invercamey Dairy, all the staples.
We hired our first employee that summer, and now there are eight of us including me and Jay.
Can you give me some examples of the independent businesses you stock?
There’s so many. The Vegan Bay Baker delivers here every day, and we also stock Bandit Bakery.
We love to champion the work of small micro bakeries, such as Fat Batch and From Bakery Lane.
What are some of your most popular products?
The meal kits, Vegan Bay Baker and then the deli.
We have our very own cheese counter because we felt that was something which Ellon was lacking. So now we stock cheese by Mellis, it’s very difficult not to buy everything from the deli.
We may occasionally have brie and cranberry for lunch.
And how do your meal kits work?
We had not long started to take in a big range of fresh produce, so we thought a meal kit was a great way to get people cooking with fresh ingredients.
We already had access to staples such as lentils and stock, we wanted to provide a local version of Hello Fresh.
It’s convenient but you are still getting good quality food. It curbs food waste massively, because any leftovers can be frozen.
They feed four people and we give you exactly what you need. The lasagne is mega-popular, we are supplied via Auchmaliddie Mains Beef.
The satay noodles also go down well.
We provide the peanut butter from our own machine. You can take your own container and fill it up, the only ingredient is roasted peanuts. No oils at all.
Prepping the meal kits is a big job and we are forever trying different things.
What’s next for Bare?
Well, we’ve just had a milk machine installed from Invercamey Dairy which is very exciting.
I think the focus is to do what we can to the best of our ability, and iron out any creases.
We love our team, we have been very lucky. Everyone brings their talent, something which really escalates the business.