With the same big name businesses dominating high streets, the shopping experience of many towns is beginning to feel pretty identical. The increase of these ‘cloned’ high streets makes it even more important that we try to celebrate and support local, independent shops. Just over a year ago, Henley was graced with its first-ever wholefood shop, The Willow Basket, lovingly ran by Jane Tutill. The Willow Basket supplies amazing whole foods whilst creating a homely relaxed atmosphere, with chairs and tables inviting customers to sit and have a tea or coffee whilst they browse.
Jane started her business hoping to inspire people to ‘eat whole, eat healthy’, a lifestyle choice that Jane is very passionate about. The shop is filled with a variety of beautifully filled mason jars containing everything you need to create nutritious meals and recipes. However, it’s The Willow Basket’s iconic ice cream selection that has really got the town talking. The delicious selection of flavours ranging from bubble-gum to strawberries and clotted cream are all made with 100% organic milk and natural ingredients! This reinforces Jane’s mission to be recognised as a whole food rather than a health food shop as she demonstrates how non-processed foods and ingredients can still be wonderfully tasty.
As well as promoting health and wellbeing through her love of whole foods, Jane also wanted to ensure that The Willow Basket aligns with her environmentally friendly lifestyle. The store utilises mason jars filled with herbs, spices, and seeds, as well as large sacks of oats, muesli, and granola in order for ingredients to be hand weighed. By doing this, the ingredients can be hand weighed into customers own containers, massively reducing the use of single-use plastic packaging that is often used throughout shops and supermarkets. Not only does this help the environment, but also saves you buying large quantitates of ingredients that you might only need for one recipe!
Although The Willow Basket has done amazingly well in its first year, Henley appears to be cursed at the moment with a number of businesses closing down. This is largely to do with the mammoth rent and rates charged throughout the town that makes it increasingly hard for independent businesses to survive. However, Jane hopes to increase footfall, especially during the quieter winter months, by advertising throughout Henley College, promoting The Willow Basket as student friendly! As an ex Henley College student myself, I think this is a great idea as students are often labelled as nuisances amongst local residents and businesses. As a student, this can make finding a friendly and inviting spot for lunch or coffee during the college lunch hour rather difficult, as many businesses are averse to serving groups of students. With the death of many businesses, Jane agreed that the town would benefit massively from utilising the town centre throughout the evening, as it is the social heart of Henley throughout the day. I think an increase of restaurants/ bars and retail stores throughout the town would give Henley a new lease of life. This would attract people to use Henley as a relaxing shopping destination as well as somewhere to socialise during the evenings.
If you live locally or are simply passing through, pop into The Willow Basket on Friday Street and try some ice cream or source some ingredients for your evening meal! Jane has created a unique business with strong ethics that deserves to be supported along with the dwindling local shops that can be found throughout Henley. Here is a quick list of a few of my favourites for you to check out for yourselves!
The Willow Basket: Amazing wholefoods and ice cream, Friday Street.
Daisy Boutique: Women’s Clothing store that stocks a variety of unusual brands, Friday Street
Hot Gossip: Coffee shop that makes made-to-order lunches, Friday Street
In The Groove Records: Record Shop that stocks vintage vinyl and CDs, Reading Road.
Salon Of Chi: Hairdressers with amazing environmentally friendly ethics, Reading Road.
The Bell Bookshop: A truly traditional bookshop experience, Bell Street.
Gabriel Machin: Traditional Butchers that supplies a range of high quality meats, Market Place.
The Vintage Look: Antique Shop, amazing for unique home wares and gifts, Hart Street.