Located on Bishopthorpe Road and launched in 1920 by married couple, Millie and Eric, Millie’s was York’s first greengrocers. This year, they celebrate their centenary, which is quite an achievement in itself.
Yet, when you consider the quality of their produce and the versatile stock they supply, it is evident that they are popular with the Yorkshire locals. Indeed, one of their many merits stems from the origins of the business being grounded in locally grown produce.
From fruit and vegetables, to jam, spices, and curries, Millie’s stock is rooted in diversity. In fact, the variety is so vast, that it exceeds the shelves of many well-known chain supermarkets. Although Millie’s presence amongst York’s local businesses remains strong, like many other independent food shops, the pandemic has impacted them. With the aim of finding out how they have been affected by the current economic climate, I spoke to Leanne Raynes, part of Millie’s’ current ownership, for her inside knowledge on the family business.
Although it may not have been the ideal year to be celebrating such a milestone given the current circumstances, Leanne revealed the shop has been ‘quite lucky’. Like many other independent businesses, Millie’s COVID-19 fate proved to be a worry. Their one lifeline remained the fact that food is a commodity, and as Leanne underlined, ‘there will always be a market for produce’. Millie’s has remained open throughout the pandemic, meaning their sales have not been halted, something which was achieved ‘by virtue of the resilience and dedication of [their] staff’.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the nation to have food delivered to their doorsteps, Millie’s once again demonstrated their adaptability. Known for attracting the attention of passers-by with crates of produce placed outside the shop, Millie’s had to cater for those who stayed at home. Their plan was simple: to update their website and make a wide range of products available for people to purchase online. To further entice customers, Leanne implemented a 10% discount to every order which would automatically be deducted from the basket at the checkout.
When asked what difference it makes when you buy from independent businesses, Leanne highlighted a ‘sense of family and community’, both of which are factors that keeps the heart of Millie’s beating. Yet, it extends further than simply supporting the owners and staff at Millie’s; the local farmers whose high-quality produce they advertise also benefit. They have established a chain of local support, fuelling the livelihoods of the wider York community.
The vast variety of fruit and vegetables they advertise are bought in fresh everyday, a practice that many chain supermarkets do not undertake. Millie’s is also a source for those unique products that you are unlikely to find on supermarket shelves, such as rapeseed oil, locally sourced jams, or even organic vegan red pesto. Although Millie’s is rooted in local produce, their products are not solely limited to York. According to Leanne, they ‘promote a multitude of cultures’ by advertising produce such as tahini sesame seed paste, chickpea and vegetable curries, and basil tofu.
Now, perhaps you are wondering where students fit in to this equation; what’s in it for us if we were to shop at Millie’s? They offer pre-made fruit and vegetable boxes, proving to be popular with the locals as they sell around ‘six to eight boxes a day’. Why not shop here with your flatmates, split the cost of a pre-made box and start cooking together? Meeting new people can be daunting, and what better way to engage with the people around you than to produce delicious meals resulting from high-quality ingredients offered by Millie’s.
Everyone knows students are fuelled by discounts, acting like moths to a flame at even the slightest reduction in price. Millie’s offer an automatic 10% discount to everyone who purchases their produce, with no minimum spend being applied. They do this with the aim of receiving loyalty from their customers, giving them a reason to keep coming back for these discounted prices.
If that didn’t convince you, Millie’s even deliver in the local York area for free on orders over £7.00. Same-day delivery is offered on orders placed before 11am, and next-day delivery if orders are placed after. Buying local produce is made easy with Millie’s!