Haddenham Garden Centre has undertaken a long-awaited expansion thanks to a grant from the LEADER Programme.

The centre’s coffee shop and farm shop has been expanded in a project that has created 25 new jobs (17 FTE) and increased weekly sales by 75%.

The family-owned Haddenham Garden Centre began trading in 1978, with the coffee shop opening in 2007. It was hoped that further developments would begin within two years of this, but due to the financial climate and a focus on running the existing business, this had to be delayed considerably. Now, with the help of a near £180,000 LEADER grant, the developments have been implemented.

Ben Hawkins, Director of Haddenham Garden Centre, takes up the story: “We are a small business wanting to grow and diversify our offering to the local area. Expanding our coffee shop and farm shop helps us meet local demand, create higher quality amenities for the local area with an emphasis on quality local food, and in turn create many jobs for the rapidly growing local rural population.”

The coffee shop is housed in a new building with a larger seating area and kitchen, while the farm shop benefits from new fixtures in order to provide a much bigger range of local produce. The garden centre has a brand new frontage and entrance that vastly improves the appearance of the site from the road.

The effect has been enormous. There is now three times the capacity in the cafe compared to before the expansion, and a 75% increase in week-on-week sales is msot welcome. The project has allowed the garden centre to become less seasonal and less reliant on plant sales, and has therefore helped to protect its longevity.

Ben knew there was scope for expansion after the results of a customer survey revealed that nearly one third of customers had been turned away from the coffee shop on one or more occasions as all of the seats were taken.

The centre has been able to increase its use of local suppliers - just one benefit to the local community. “Visiting garden centres is now widely considered a leisure and tourism activity,” says Ben. “Our expansion will increase the number of visitors to the local area, therefore benefiting the other local attractions and businesses close to us.

“There are many local food and drink suppliers that will directly benefit from this project too, as we continue to source products from local suppliers.”

The 25 new jobs have been spread across different parts of the business. Ben explains that these jobs were dependent on the LEADER funding: “Without the LEADER funding, we simply wouldn't have been able to complete this project. The grant allowed us to complete the entire project within one year and safeguard these future jobs and business growth.”

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