We opened Matthias Winter in September 2018. Before opening the shop I was a teacher and was running a Pre-School in a local village school. I broke up for the summer holiday at the end of July as a teacher and opened the shop in September fitting a holiday and shop refit in between - that was one busy summer! I had no experience of retail so have been on a very steep learning curve ever since we opened. The name Matthias Winter was my great grandfather's name. His full name was Matthias Winter Yelland. The name Winter was given to him in honour of a family friend named Winter Sidebottom but sadly we do not know the reason why and now are unlikely to ever know. Matthias Winter had a grocery shop in Horbury, West Yorkshire which was my only, albeit tenous link to the retail world and I always loved the name which was the real reason for my choosing it.
Since opening the shop it is has grown and evolved in line with my own personal interests. We moved away from the largely gift based focus we started with to more of an eco/ethical community hub. I have always been interested in environmental issues and saw the opportunity to use the shop as a channel to further my own knowledge and to influence others through the products we sell and our actions as a retailer. Our products are all carefully selected for their eco credentials and we actively seek out suppliers who are either local or have charitable gifting as part of their business model. What I have come to realise is that there are no perfect options. Sometimes we have to just opt for a choice which although may not be perfect is a better option than the mainstream norm. My hope is that if sufficient people make changes which start to affect the sales of the big players that this will make them sit up, take notice and make positive changes themselves.
In November 2019 we started selling cleaning products on a refill basis setting up our refill station in a prominent section of the shop. Customers bring their empty bottles for refilling or buy our beautiful amber glass bottles. We use Bio D and Fill products. Both brands manufacture cleaning and laundry products in the UK using biodegradable ingredients. We also sell Alter Native shampoo, conditioner and body wash which is plant based and uses essential oils for their scents. This has proved to be a huge success and we are considering extending into zero waste food.
We love being part of Hexham's vibrant community and are keen to get involved with local community projects. We offer a magazine swap scheme where people can donate or take a magazine then return when they have read it.
We are a local drop off point for a few of the Terracycle recycling schemes. We take crisp packets, biscuit wrappers/cake bar wrappers and Pringles tubes (only their branded ones are collected). In return for sending these otherwise unrecyclable plastics for re-cycling we earn points which convert to charitable cash donations from Terracycle to a charity of our choice twice a year. Our current charity is a local charity called Pennines Wildlife Rescue. We also accept used stamps which we send to a Hospice to be sold on their behalf to raise funds and we have been collecting Ecobriks for a local school's garden planter building project. We are members of the water refill scheme so if you trying to avoid single use plastic bottles and need a reusable water bottle refilling when you're next in the shop please just ask.
In the last year I have written a couple of documents to help the people of Hexham cut down on their plastic use including a document showing which retailers/take aways allow you to take your own container to collect food thereby avoiding throwaway take away containers. The second is about recycling options in Hexham and is available to read on our website. In addition to the kerbside council collections and waste recycling centre options there are lots of other schemes tucked away locally which I wasn't aware of until I started researching and wanted to share those with others and help to keep as much waste out of the incinerator as possible.
I am a member of the Hexham Clean and Green group which is working towards Hexham gaining plastic free status and have become a drop off point for Hexham's fresh food bank. This is a group of local fruit and veg growers who donate excess produce to the West Northumberland Food Bank. Produce is dropped at the shop on Saturday afternoon or Monday morning, collected by the Food Bank on Monday lunchtime and distributed on Tuesday.
In the Autumn we offer craft/skills classes usually on Wednesday evenings to bring people together for a relaxed evening of making and socialising.
Covid 19 brought it's own challenges for us as it did for everyone but it also brought opportunities. While the shop was closed we began to offer same day home deliveries and contactless doorstep refills of our cleaning products. We also started sending free Treebombs with online orders as a thank you for shopping with us. Treebombs are great as they can be tossed on any open patch of grass and will weather into the soil. There is no need to plant as such so could easily be distributed throughout lockdown, even when we were limited to one walk per day. When we send out postal deliveries we re-use cardboard boxes and packing materials, wrap our items in brown paper and string (no sellotape) and send using plastic free packing tape.
We are located just off the market place, a few doors along from the Forum Cinema. We offer a bike creche for anyone wanting to visit Hexham on two wheels rather than four. There is space to attach your bike to the railings outside the shop and we can keep an eye out for you from our counter. Come along and visit us if you can or get a feel for the shop on the website. It would be lovely to welcome you into the shop.
The photo above is of myself and Derek Kennedy, my local Councillor and friend who very kindly cut the ribbon for us on 8th September 2018.
Don't hesitate to give me a call me on 0751 805 7112 if you need any help or have any questions and I'll do my best to help.