Colin and Carla Ashby have turned the calamity of pandemic into an opportunity.
Three months after lockdown forced the closure of Colin’s antique and furniture business, a new enterprise is taking off.
Ashby’s Fruit & Vegetable Supplies is only 12 weeks old but already the seed is starting to grow and the hard work bearing, well … fruit.
In only month four of the business, a new website has been launched selling a comprehensive range of fresh produce, whole foods and environmentally-friendly household goods.
Meanwhile, the new premises in Hyndland Street is filling out and stocking more and more goods.
And for Colin and Carla, there has hardly been any time to take in how life has changed.
Colin, 40, said: “I was an antiques dealer but the pandemic closed that business.
“We spent the whole time thinking, ‘what am I going to do now?’
“I had no experience at all of the fruit and veg trade. We just worked it out.”
The family – the couple have four children aged seven and under – had to self-isolate early on.
The experience gave Colin the idea to set up a totally new fresh produce business.
“We had to isolate as a family quite early on – and one thing we could not get was food delivered.
“Even Tesco wouldn’t deliver.
“I just went to Blochairn market one day and bought £170 of fruit and veg – and put it in the back of the van.
“I put the produce into individual boxes and advertised on Facebook.
“They sold out in two days – and so I went back to the market again.”
The timeline expanded rapidly from there.
Within days, Ashby’s was supplying local shops who were crying out for fresh fruit and veg.
Then Carla – a teacher – set up a website to promote the business.
A second website was built by Colin’s sister, Emma, to allow people to shop.
“It was round about the time the new website was launching we got the shop,” said Colin.
“It wasn’t advertised but the previous occupier had left a phone number in the window.
“It put me in touch with the landlord who said they hadn’t advertised because they were not expecting anyone to want it during a pandemic.
“‘Well, I’ll have it!’ I said.
‘I just went to Blochairn market one day and bought £170 of fruit and veg – and put it in the back of the van.
‘I put the produce into individual boxes and advertised on Facebook.
‘They sold out in two days – and so I went back to the market again’
“We got the keys on the Tuesday night and we were open on Thursday morning.”
The shop comes with a colourful local connection.
In a former guise as an antiques shop, a young Billy Connolly would come in and joke with staff.
Carla said the shop’s former owner had called when they opened and told them the anecdote.
Carla said: “Billy Connolly used to come in and say ‘I’ll have that, I’ll have that, when all along he didn’t have any money!’
Scroll on a few years and customers (with money) can order what they want from Ashby’s website.
People can choose pre-arranged boxes or a subscription order.
Customers set up a standing order or direct debit and then pick anything they want.
“The box can be weekly, fortnightly, or twice weekly – whatever they prefer,” says Colin.
“We’d love more regular customers and more subscribers to the boxes.
“This is not a lockdown thing anymore.
“This is now about convenience – and why not get some of your shopping fresh from a shop like ours rather than from the supermarkets?”
* You can find Ashby’s Fruit & Vegetable Supplies at 77 Hyndland Street, Partick and at www.ashbysfruitandveg.co.uk