Geoff Bligh and Phil Rivers are behind a growing number of 100 per cent vegan venues in Ipswich and now Felixstowe. Here, Geoff talks about overcoming the challenges of opening a pub just before a pandemic, and how the new Beach Street location is going to be the perfect place to be this summer
My partner and I decided to start Hank’s Deli & Shop because Ipswich was so lacking in vegan options – there was a real gap in the market in town. Originally, we had started doing frozen ready meals, which were so popular that people kept asking us to open a restaurant. So, we started off with a small shop and café on Lloyd’s Avenue and the rest, as they say, is history!
The beginning of 2020 was amazing. We had just taken over the Grinning Rat on St Helen’s St in Ipswich and turned it into Hank’s Pub & Food – which launched to fully booked days and nights from day one. We were just planning for a fully booked Mother’s Day when of course Covid-19 came along. It was quite a shock to close the pub so soon after opening and a really challenging time, deciding what to do as a business with so much unknown at the time.
The first lockdown saw us expand our grocery retailing offer and introduce our home delivery service when the cafe closed – so much so that our tiny little shop was no longer fit for purpose. We hatched the idea to expand the shopping experience and transform the café into a takeaway as we could see that social distancing was going to be an issue even if we were allowed to re-open again. We had already been looking at bigger premises for the shop, so we just fast-forwarded those plans and moved into the old Maplin location on Carr St. Hank’s had now become a proper supermarket with a café inside!
We then re-vamped the restaurant on Lloyd’s Avenue, turning that into the first Hank’s Dirty – which has gone down a storm in town. Throughout the rest of year, we’ve just been working on our range, opening and closing the restaurants along with government guidelines and trying to be as adaptive and agile as possible to ensure that we make it through these tough times.
When we looked at Beach Street, we knew straight away it was the perfect place for a Hank’s Dirty. We already have lots of grocery customers that we deliver shopping to in town and many of them drive to Ipswich to get takeaways already – so couple that with the beach, summer, and the amazing job they have done creating the venue, we knew it was a winner. And we weren’t wrong, so far it has been great! We’ve had some wonderful reviews and good feedback, so we are looking forward to a cracking summer.
I believe veganism is the way forward, full stop. Be it environmental or ethical, the ongoing exploitation of animals for food is one of the biggest causes of global warming, habitat destruction and animal extinction. Not to mention the way we now mass farm animals is incredibly cruel, so yes, I am excited to see the growth of vegan businesses, vegan options and plant-based products.
From April 12, our pub and café will re-open for outside dining and takeaway and we will be glad to welcome people back inside the takeaways as well. We think Beach Street is going to be an incredible place to come down for food and a day at the beach!
We do hope that this year allows us to get things back on track and return to a more traditional way of spending leisure time and eating out! And yes, we are eyeing up another Hank’s Dirty or two!
Hank’s Deli & Shop – Suffolk’s only 100% vegan supermarket, Eastgate Shopping Centre, Carr Street, Ipswich; Hank’s Dirty, Lloyds Avenue, Ipswich; Hank’s Dirty – On the Beach, Beach Street, Felixstowe; and Hank’s Pub & Food, St. Helens Street, Ipswich. Visit https://www.peninsulaveganfoods.com/