Interview: Liz Kemp of Kemp’s General Store | Living North

Interview: Liz Kemp of Kemp’s General Store


Kemp's General Store
Ahead of Small Business Saturday, Living North caught up with Liz Kemp, owner of Kemp’s General Store in Malton to discuss all things retail
I really challenge myself to try to have something for everyone and every budget. I am keen I broaden the offer to visitors to Malton and not conflict with other retailers – if we broaden the offering, then we will continue to attract people to this terrific market town.

Tell us a bit about your background in the retail industry.

I come from a family of general store owners so retail is in my blood. My childhood was spent in and around shops with my family playing the role of purveyor of necessities as well as a hub for the community. They were more than shopkeepers, with service playing a major part in their establishments, whether they were selling mousetraps and mops, or tins of soup and soap. I love the contrast of stocking gift items as I have always loved giving presents and knowing I’ve hit the mark for the recipient, so now I help my customers do just this.

How did Kemp’s General Store come to be?

I have always been self-employed and been lucky enough to travel widely. However, I had reached a stage in my life where I wanted to spend more time at home and I wanted to be part of a community. I love Malton, and it provided both the home and work environment that I was after.  Two years ago a ‘perfect storm’ occurred which fell at a quiet period in my career – a unit became available and Malton was reaching a point in its development where it was ‘high street’ with huge potential. With a gap in the market for my kind of shop, the jigsaw just fell into place. Owning a shop in Malton feels like coming home, in lots of ways. 

Is it important to you to retain traditional ways of doing things, or do you try to combine modern tactics too?

The ethos behind Kemp’s is one of ‘shopkeeping heritage with modern re-imagination’. Kemp’s General Store is bricks and mortar with old fashioned personal service at its core, just like my parents’ shop. But unlike my parents, I am able to source products far more easily with the internet opening up access to diverse suppliers. We do offer a traditional mail-order option, and I fully embrace the joys of social media to keep our customers informed, but I want people to come to Kemp’s to enjoy an authentic shopping experience and see a huge range of curated items. I’d like to think that customers come to the shop for inspiration and leave happy, or if they enjoy browsing, attending a craft workshop or just pop in to say hello, then that’s fine too.  

What are your favourite products in the store?

I love the Herdy UK range. They make great gifts for all ages, products that make you smile and they’re a company which supports local sheep farmers. I adore all the Cambridge Imprint wraps, cards and stationery products, which include beautiful hand crafted designs and prints created by a small independent company led by women. I also support local where I can and the Little Yorkshire Candle Company create quality products from Church Fenton, and Bear and Mouse Chocolate, delicious artisan chocolates made in Ripon, are a constant on our shelves.  

How do you pick the products in the store?

Shelves are not just filled and products are not just stocked at Kemp’s, and I’d like to think I have a creative eye and take a curatorial approach to what we sell. I attend several large trade fairs each year but I am always looking for recommendations and researching new products. I think about the challenges of buying the perfect gift and how often choice is limited by the imagination of buyers curtailed in larger retailers. I really challenge myself to try to have something for everyone and every budget. I am keen I broaden the offer to visitors to Malton and not conflict with other retailers – if we broaden the offering, then we will continue to attract people to this terrific market town. 

What do you do to make customers feel like their time at your store is special?

We always try to verbally welcome customers into the store, so there’s an immediate connection and an offer of help if wanted. Even if it’s chilly, I’ll leave the door open as it encourages people to pop in. We take care to remove prices and wrap purchases beautifully so they are gift ready, or we can take customer orders for ceramics, books, bath and beauty products so we can tailor our offering. I like to think we have a positive impact on visitors and with our recent inclusion in the UK’s 2018 Small Business 100, I think we might be getting it right. 

What are your plans for the future?

When I took my shop at 13 Market Place I thought I would never fill it, but I have. A bigger shop or even another Kemp’s in another town is a possibility. Malton has so much potential and so many opportunities so who knows… maybe a cousin of Kemp’s might emerge in the town one day too.

What do you love about Malton?

Malton is a superb little town, perfectly located for York, the coast and the Wolds. It’s also a working town where people come daily to work as well as to visit. With a full range of business services here, as well as shops, the town supports a busy community and the free parking is an incentive for visitors from further afield. Malton CIC is an enterprising organisation supporting local businesses and community developing and promoting the foodie interests of the town. We have such a positive community, many of whom are new to the town bringing fresh enthusiasm and new types of business, complimenting existing stores who have been there for decades such as Woodalls and Yates.  

Where are your favourite places in North Yorkshire?

I love the unique Turkish Baths in Harrogate and Sandsend on the coast to blow the cobwebs away, but I also enjoy Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire and Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Titus Salt’s Saltaire are also inspirational places to visit and I always return grateful that I live within easy reach of it all. 

Describe your ideal Sunday.

It’s the only day the alarm doesn’t go off but I’m an early riser regardless. Best start to the day is a good cup of Roost Coffee with eggs for breakfast, followed by our dog taking us for a walk. My partner Jonathan and I are currently walking Centenary Way which we do in chunks when we have time. On our return, I enjoy pottering in the garden then heading inside to a fire enjoyed with a board game, Caylus or Puerto Rico, or perhaps a jigsaw. We currently have a new house to furnish so rooting around places like Fully Furnished in York and second hand shops to find something different is currently one of our favourite pastimes. 

The UK’s 2018 Small Business Saturday, celebrating independent shops around the country, takes place this Saturday 1st December.  

Kemps General Stores 13 Market Place Malton YO17 7LP

01653 693577


Published in: November 2018

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