Indie Interview: 2 North Parade

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

Liz Wilding had a chat with Peter Slade and Victoria Borondo inside their friendly neighborhood produce store, 2 North Parade tucked away in North Oxford.

2 North Parade shop Oxford

Tell us about your inspiration for 2 North Parade

I (Peter) was working in a kitchen garden for a couple of years.  It was my first experience of growing peas and eating them straight out of the pod and carrots out of the ground. This was completely different to what I was used to growing up and opened my eyes so much.  My first shop was in that garden selling to visitors. I enjoyed setting it up every weekend, talking with the customers, and sharing what I’d been growing all week. We started to go to farmers markets, where we met people we still work with today. We were really interested in where the produce was coming from and where it was grown. We also loved the process of buying from somewhere lovely. It’s the opposite of a supermarket: It’s the journey to get there and the actual experience of buying as part of your day.

That feeds into the look of the shop, which is more Victoria’s background (art and design). We love making it look good and displaying things to make them look beautiful. The idea is that everyone respects what they are working with, and there’s a connection that goes right through to the customers. The growers respect the environment and the soil, which they’re taking care of. And then we’re taking the food on, showcasing and talking about where it comes from. The quality and the taste are super important. What we sell is so fresh: it’s picked or bottled that day and comes into the shop where it’s sold straight away. With all this beautiful produce, we’re excited to hear what people are cooking from the ingredients they’ve bought and to get their recipes.

2 North Parade shop Oxford

Why North Parade?

Peter used to have a stall selling cheeses at the North Parade market, we got to know the area and the customers, and the street felt like a good fit for us. We like the fact that it isn’t right in town and that it has a neighbourhood, community vibe.  The shop is accessible to all sorts of people – regulars, students, tourists – a real mix. Everything is loose and you can buy small quantities, even one mushroom if you want! You can spend just a few pounds and you get something that is really tasty.

2 North Parade Oxford

How do you select products and how important is sustainability to you?

We initially chose established local organic farms around Oxford that we’d been buying from personally: North Aston, Worton, Sandy Lane. We could see the way that they were growing and working with the environment and the soil.  For example, we go to Waterperry to buy apples, and Sandy Lane has fantastic soil for growing carrots or root veg. It’s amazing to have North Aston Dairy on our doorstep: a micro dairy with a small herd of pasture fed cows and unhomogenized milk. We’ve started working with more suppliers, such as our lovely local mushroom grower who’s just starting out. With these farms, there’s limited food miles, no packaging, and it’s sustaining the environment. Everything they take out, they’re putting back in. It’s a continuous cycle, and that’s really important to us.

2 North Parade shop Oxford

We want to meet the farmers, serve the customers, be sustainable, and have the quality. And keep the work-life balance.

What direction do you want to go in the future?

Our longer-term dreams are to have our own plot of land and grow our own selection. And to work even more closely with growers, to incorporate the shop with a local farm that we can have a share of. In the meantime, we’re always working on our little courtyard and would love to be able to grow more herbs to cut fresh.

We’ve never really thought about opening a new 2 North Parade, even though we are asked about that a lot.  It’s such a family business: we just want to do this well, keep it exciting and fresh, and be part of it. We don’t want to stretch ourselves. We want to meet the farmers, serve the customers, be sustainable, and have the quality. And keep the work-life balance.

2 North Parade shop Oxford

What are your favourite indie businesses in Oxford?

These are the ones that spring to mind straight away.

Objects of Use is wonderful. Everything is made to last, and so beautifully displayed. You buy something that you can use for the rest of your life. Hamblin Bread is such good quality. It’s incredible. We love Tiddly Pommes, and the fact that Rupert does apple juice that’s single variety, not a blend. It’s just a pleasure to have him come once a week, give us an apple fact, some history and flavour. Plus, you can return the bottles.  And of course, Missing Bean coffee, who we’ve known since they opened on Turl St.

Objects of Use Oxford
The Missing Bean Turl Street Oxford

What else would you like people to know?

Regarding local food, we’re always hoping that there will be more smaller farms around cities that can provide local produce to more people.  Agriculture has become so big that it’s not sustainable without pesticides, chemicals, and heavy machinery. It would be amazing to have younger people getting into farming, taking up small plots, and being really specialists in different heritage varieties. This would maintain biodiversity rather than monoculture and keep things broad.  We’d love to be in a position to support new start-ups and help them get going.

2 North Parade shop Oxford

2 North Parade is open from 8.30 am – 5.30 pm Tuesday to Friday, 8.30 am – 3 pm on Saturdays and 10 am – 2 pm on Sundays.

Liz Wilding Food Writer Oxford

About the interviewer: Liz Wilding

Liz is an Oxford-based food anthropologist foraging across town for new culinary experiences. Hearing the stories of the chefs and producers is just as important as the eating: tales of toasties to tahini to tempura.

Read Liz’s other Indie Oxford blogs with; Hamblin Bread, The Wonky Food Co, The Orange Bakery & L’Altre Vi.

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