Copperfields has the type of window display that beckons a browse, even if you’re not looking for something in particular. Curious shoppers may be surprised to hear the owner Kim Foster imparting advice on a variety of topics from property prices to politics as well as the specialist cookware items – he has been in the town since 1975, so he knows a lot!
Why did you choose to set up in Whitstable
I actually sold the shop more than 20 years ago, but that was acting as an estate agent in the town, so I knew the previous owners very well.
They considered closing the shop five years ago. I just couldn’t let that happen. I could see the development potential and didn’t want a shop that has been independently owned since the 1880s to disappear from the High Street. I decided to buy it with my daughter Gemma. It has been many things in its time, a brewery, hotel and blacksmiths – in fact, our till is on the site of where the blacksmiths used to shoe the horses for the post office.
What do you love about your business and working here?
I love the town and working with people, I’ve been here a long time. It’s like working in a village, although it’s a town it has a village atmosphere. You’ve got to like people and enjoy providing a service so I think this is the personal side that I enjoy really.
Are there any funny anecdotes that you can share?
We do have a lot of celebrities come in, there’s a lot of people who have homes here, but we are quite protective of them as they are entitled to a normal life. But I’m sure Tom Kerridge won’t mind me giving him a mention. He comes into the shop and is a great chef and he does a lot with the Sportsman. We sometimes have Eastenders actors in, but I don’t always notice them until one of the girls give me a nudge.
What is special about your products?
We spend a lot of time sourcing different cookware products and try to be individual and we will always endeavour to source something specific if our customer cannot find it in the shop. We travel to shows, factories and manufacturers to see what we can bring in that is different. We try to ensure that we have a high-quality product, so we never look for a high volume of sales, we look for customer satisfaction.
Who inspired you?
My mother gave me most of my inspiration. I lost my father aged 7 and my mother brought up my sister and I and gave me that direction in terms of work ethic, motivation and principles. My (maternal) grandfather was a borough surveyor on the Isle of Sheppey and my interest of property came from him I think. My father’s family had the fishing fleet in Sheppey, so my grandfather was selling fish at Sheerness docks, we have photos of him with cockles in barrows. Those boats were built in Whitstable so I feel like I’ve always had a link between my roots and Whitstable.
On the food side I think it must have been Floyd. He was the first TV food chef that made cooking look easy and fun. I love all types of food with a particular love of middle eastern cuisine.
How do you take your coffee?
I like Turkish espresso and I like certain cappuccinos – my favourite one in the town is the Tudor Tea Rooms – I love their coffee!
What do your customers say about you?
When people come in here, they always say ‘we love this shop’ there’s a lot of people who come from all over the country and even if they come here twice a year, they will always come in. They know that what they buy is good quality and it lasts. I would say we are friendly; we don’t hard sell and try and have a bit of fun with our customers.
Why do you think shopping local is important?
If people don’t shop local then shops don’t survive and you lose the high street and the community that comes with it. If someone shops with me and spends money in my shop, I spend mine in another local shop and then the money has a ripple effect of staying in the town economy. If we shop on a corporate basis then all this does is pay the shareholders. People receive a much better personal service too. My shoppers are a personality and not a number.
What has been your proudest moment or biggest achievement?
In 2016 we won Best Independent Cookshop in the UK – but we never lose sight of the fact that we are a local community shop though.
What is your biggest selling item?
We don’t have any one particular item. We won’t have things here that other shops will sell in the town. We say to our suppliers that we want it exclusively, but we do create a lot of things unique to us too. We work with artist Nigel Wallace to produce our own table mats, mugs and prints.
What other shops in Whitstable or Tankerton would you recommend to your customers?
I think we have some great shops in Whitstable and Tankerton. If people come in here and we don’t have the product they are looking for I will always recommend another shop. We send people to George’s, Stocks or Whites of Kent. I will never send anyone to B&Q or any other out of town shops.
Watch this space! Copperfield’s is expanding even more. We hope to be able to keep you up to date with the exciting developments early next year.