New Market Row deli will inspire community spirit, says mayor

Five people stand around a light blue banner. The woman in front cuts it with scissors.

Cllr Heather Asker, Mayor of Saffron Walden, declares Saffron & Sage open. Picture: Roger King - Credit: Archant

A new, independent deli in the town centre is a "huge asset" to Saffron Walden, the mayor has said.

Saffron & Sage on Market Row was opened by mayor Heather Asker on Wednesday (April 14).

Deli owner Karen Oakley said the shop is a dream come true after a career in financial operations and IT.

A customer hands a pineapple to Karen Oakley over a counter at Saffron & Sage

Deli owner Karen Oakley (left) left a career in financial operations and IT behind to start Saffron & Sage. Picture: Roger King - Credit: Archant

Karen said: "I've always wanted to do something like this.

"I have a massive passion for food, but it is also really important to be a part of the community and not having to race off to London on a daily basis.

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"Reflecting on the past 13 months of lockdown has meant really re-evaluating what elements of life we can change."

Karen is particularly keen to work with East Anglian food and drink producers and suppliers at the deli.

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She stocks bread from Cambridge baker Fitzbillies and crisps from Fairfields Farm near Colchester.

Even the finishing touches to the shop's fittings and fixings were masterminded by Walden handyman Mick Pegler.

Karen said: "We have been quite particular with some of our suppliers, keeping produce very local and artisan.

"I've not done anything like this before.

"I gave up my job to follow this passion and to try to fulfil a need in the town.

"Some people would say that it's brave opening up because of the coronavirus, but I think it's not necessarily that brave opening in Saffron Walden - there's an appetite for this type of shop."

Small business confidence is thought to have rebounded across the country this week as lockdown restrictions ease.

Baskets filled with vegetables in front of a group of people outside Saffron & Sage

Saffron & Sage opened on April 14, just days after lockdown easing. Picture: Roger King - Credit: Archant

This follows the closure of shops across the town, including the much-loved East Street Stores.

Prezzo, Carphone Warehouse, Laura Ashley and Ask Italian have also disappeared from Saffron Walden in recent months.

Mayor Heather Asker said: "I think it's a huge asset to the town to have a new, independent grocery-cum-deli.

"The array of produce here has been stunning, and it feels much like an old corner shop.

"If we can move forward on something like this, we can keep the community spirit going in a nice corner of the town."

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