Last Friday was a day for me to visit businesses, big and small, local and national, up and down my constituency. In the morning I was able to join the great Steve Thorpe from Royal Mail on his morning postal delivery route in Hereford. Steve soon had me wheeling his trolley full of letters and parcels on his round down Widemarsh Street, through to High Town and Eign Gate.
It was a mostly business route, delivering to shops, cafes and other retailers in the centre of town. I had a fair number of double takes as people wondered why their MP was delivering the mail, but Steve was kind enough to say at the end that I might make a decent postie! You can see a film of us in action, on Facebook.
But the walk was not only a great opportunity to shadow Steve and get to see a professional at work, it was also a reminder of the importance of our independent local businesses. One of the businesses we passed on Friday was the Tandem Bakery on Widemarsh Street, which is very sadly closing this week. It’s a blow: not just for the staff, but for loyal customers who visited the bakery over the last three years. The team in my office have taken it especially hard, since they love their coffee and cake!
At the other end of the spectrum that day, I was delighted to drop in to the new Mountain Warehouse shop opposite the Market House in Ross-on-Wye. The team were very excited to be opening, and rightly so. This is a national chain, but with the founding entrepreneur still very much in charge it still has all the energy and drive of a young business. And Lee and Hayley and the other staff told me they still had one or two job vacancies. I suspect they’ll be filled soon.
So it is a mixed picture. We all want the convenience and brands that come from the big supermarket chains. But smaller businesses, small shops and cafes are what make a place special, and they are what make our city and our towns and villages so special in Herefordshire. The high street is changing faster than ever due to the Internet, but the human dimension of popping in to local businesses, and the friendliness and energy they generate, is something you never get online.