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A Taste of Britain packs “a little bit of back home”

Cathy Dobson The Hayhow family say their new Sarnia store is one of the largest British retail outlets in Ontario, offering everything from clothing to candy and gifts to games.
A Taste of Britian at 580 Murphy Rd. is co-owned by Ron Hayhow, flanked by assistants Karen Tobin, left, and Elaine Dwyer. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The Hayhow family say their new Sarnia store is one of the largest British retail outlets in Ontario, offering everything from clothing to candy and gifts to games.

“We import all the candy and groceries that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency allows into Canada,” says Ron Hayhow, co-owner with his wife Ann.

Meat products that can’t be imported, like Scotch meat pies and haggis, are purchased from Opies Meats in Hamilton.

“We have the biggest selection of UK products in Ontario,” added son Rick Hayhow who does all the overseas ordering.  “I know because I’ve personally been in most of the other British retailers.”

The Hayhow family lives in London and opened their first shop there in 2001 called A Taste of Britain. They have since opened a second location in London’s south end and recently brought A Taste of Britain to Sarnia.

Sarnia has a significant number of people from the UK living here, as well as a growing population from India, Australia and South Africa. All are part of the Commonwealth and tend to enjoy UK products.

The Hayhows opened their third location with English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh products in February at 580 Murphy Rd.

While the trio is in Sarnia regularly, Karen Tobin and Elaine Dwyer have been hired to watch the shop. Dwyer is the former owner of the British Shoppe, a café at Northgate, and has many tied with people from the UK.

“I retired but got talked into coming back to work here on Saturdays,” said Elaine. “I’m seeing lots and lots of my old customers who I’ve missed in the last 12 years.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”

The imported gifts, groceries and novelties at A Taste of Britain are “a little bit of back home that’s hard to find anywhere else,” she said.

Big sellers in the snack aisles include bags of Walker’s Cheese and Onion crisps, Cadbury chocolate bars made the UK way with more cocoa and less wax, biscuits from Marks and Spencer, Walker’s shortbread and McVitie’s HobNobs.

Grocery shelves are filled with imported jams, marmalades and sticky puddings. The South African food section includes beef boerewors sausage, Mrs. H.S. Ball’s Peach Sauce and beef biltong, which are huge slabs of dried beef jerky.

A Taste of Britain carries a gluten-free product line including English creamy toffees and Nairns gluten free Scottish porridge.

There’s a clothing section with rugby shirts selling for $80, T-shirts are priced from $19 to $25 and soccer shirts $22 to $50. Scarves, kilts, baby clothes and accessories are also in stock.

Guinness products from Ireland occupy one wall, including mugs, jewelry, magnets, soccer shirts and novelties.

Dr. Who is a favourite of the store’s customers, with everything from backpacks to pillows, said Rick Hayhow.

Last week, the Hayhows combed through the catalogues to make their sizable Christmas order, which will double their inventory and signal their busiest time of year.

“We try not to run out of anything,” Rick said. “It’s tricky, but we’ve been doing this for so many years, we generally get it right.

“And, if a customer requests something specific, we’ll do our best to get it.”

A Taste of Britain can be reached at 519-344-0226 and is open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Got an interesting business story?  Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985. 

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