Just a minute… With Kristie Bishop-Downes from Hornsey Pet & Garden
Hello Kristie. How long have you and your family had your business in Crouch End?
It will be 35 years this year that we’ve been here. Glen (Davis) has been here 32 years.
Why a pet shop? Where did the idea for the business come from?
My mum had always wanted a pet shop since she was a little girl. She had worked in banks, worked in the city and just decided one day that’s what she would do! I did floristry but the girl I worked with gave up so I came here as a bit of a stopgap when I was 21 and 22 years later I’m still here!
What are the best things about owning your own business?
KBD Well we can’t say we’re not answerable to anyone can we Glen because we’re answerable to mum (laughing) – she’s in charge! We can make our own decisions about the business and that’s great because we know what people want. GD You’re in tune with the area. If you work for a conglomerate then you’ve got people making decisions who don’t know the area. If you live and work in the area, you listen to the people and learn to know what they want.
What don’t you like about it?
KBD Probably not ever getting away from it. It’s there 24/7 even when you’re not actually in the shop, you never ever switch off! When you’re on holiday, I don’t think there’s ever a day when any of us don’t make contact or call someone or pop in. GD The accountability is another thing, especially with social media. You can’t please everyone and you do your utmost to make sure you’re doing the best for them but it can be hard sometimes. KBD Because we’re an old fashioned little shop, the social media side of things we find hard. You can have a good couple of weeks and then you don’t do it for months so it’s hard keeping things up to date.
What are the main challenges you face as a small independent business?
GD Well where shall we start, alphabetically or numerically? The main thing is the council side of things being more sympathetic towards the independents. They could be a bit more lenient with the parking and stuff like that so parking’s a problem. And there’s all this going on about helping small businesses but does it actually filter down to the grass roots? There’s so much red tape and paperwork, it can be really tricky!
What’s the biggest seller?
KBD I think it’s the flowers now. It used to be the animals but the flowers and plants have taken over. After that it would be the dry dog food. We’ve always been very lucky with the plants because we’re competing with the prices of the bigger garden centres and we’ve been able to keep our prices less. Every single year more and more people come back, new people come and lots of this is through word of mouth. With the flowers, I go to the wholesalers regularly, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week so the flowers are fresher and I keep the prices down and people come back. GD We’re very lucky, we have a really loyal customer base that always come to us and recommend us and we always try to make sure that we stay reasonable and affordable. It’s about looking after the customers. They’re good to us and we try and look after them as much as possible.
What’s one of your favourite films of all time and why?
KBD Honest? My favourite film in the whole world is Kevin and Perry Go Large. I just love Kathy Burke and Harry Enfield and it’s just my crazy sense of humour. I love it! It’s my all time favourite! GD Any Norman Wisdom films. I just like him and his humour!
You can buy cut flowers, potted flowers, plants, seeds, pots, compost, and other general garden treatments and they also sell some garden tools. They have a big range of pet food and now sell their own brand called Grain Free. They also stock pet supplies, toys and accessories all at great prices!
They’re open 7 days a week and you can find them at 19 Park Road, N8 8TE