My life in the grocery trade

Glen Houston, owner, Granny Shaw’s Trading Post, Ballymena

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

I am the business owner of Granny Shaw’s Trading Post in Ballymena’s Tower Centre alongside my wife Rhonda. It opened in July 2020 to provide an old time feel and welcoming atmosphere not dissimilar to Trader Joe’s, the successful US chain.

BRIEFLY OUTLINE YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

My employment to date has been a mix of music and food. I studied music in London, and this was predominately my line of work for many years from performing to teaching with the SEELB and to eventually setting up my own entertainments company almost 20 years ago; a business which is still going strong. My introduction to the food industry came seven years ago as we started to make our own small batches of fudge. This eventually grew into a full business trading at fine food shows and artisan markets. Our first shop was Granny Shaw’s Fudge Factory on Glenarm Castle Estate. However, the onset of Covid and the lockdown meant we had to change to our business model. So, we decided to open Granny Shaw’s as a trading post in Ballymena, specialising in fine foods and confections from the island of Ireland. We also continue to make our own fudge.

WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?

My role within the business is still as a maker of fudge. As the business is growing, I am also constantly looking and searching for standout local foods that will appeal to our customers. The normal day-to-day tasks of ordering, rotas, quality control and marketing are also taken care of.

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?

The best part is always meeting, greeting and giving customer advice on how blessed we are to have such amazing food producers in Ireland and in particular Northern Ireland, right on our doorstep. Food education is so important to understanding the true quality of the products they are buying.

BRIEFLY OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY

The day starts with deliveries from fresh food suppliers including bakery at around 6am. We restock the shop for opening at 9am. I’ll be working in the shop until closing at 5pm and talking to existing and potential suppliers. The role also involves organising our free online delivery service for Friday and Saturday.

PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?

My proudest moment is to see my wife and business partner Rhonda working in the shop every day. Rhonda was diagnosed with Grade 3 Brain Cancer seven years ago and in 2019/2020 a second tumour growth required further chemotherapy. During all of her treatment and to date, she has never taken a day off work. I’m not sure I would be that strong; I probably don’t tell her enough but she is my inspiration daily.

BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED WITH THE LOCAL RETAIL INDUSTRY?

Without doubt, getting to know all of our amazing suppliers and creating new friendships. We are also small food makers and understand that connection and support with each other is so important.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?

Currently I have started to indulge in audio books particularly focusing on mind set. So a good audio book and glass of a recommended red from Robb Brothers Wines in a quiet room is perfection.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW

I made an unexpected appearance on The Big Breakfast show in the early 90s with Chris Evans, Paula Yates and Gabby Roslin to promote a Children’s flute event called Flutewise in the Barbican, London. I think, however, we got the brief wrong as my performance was with a group of fellow flute professionals called The Chippenflutes.

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