From Debenhams going to Deliveroo arriving - Hot Sausage man sees every change in Ipswich
- Credit: Archant
After 32 years in business, and having sold more than a million hotdogs, Andrew Bavington-Barber has seen Ipswich change massively, but he says business is still booming.
Mr Bavington-Barber, who runs the Hot Sausage Company, has worked on the Cornhill since 1988 and counts Suffolk Superstar Ed Sheeran among his fans.
Of the past 12 months, he said: "It's been a year of ups and downs— it started with a big down with the post Christmas lockdown, where we were trading at maybe 40-50% of what we normally do, although unlike a lot of businesses, at least we could open.
"Then we came back at 150%, and it's only just started to slow down, we're now back at about normal, but I think that's because we're outside, so easily accessible.
"Partly I put our recent success to that, but also its because we're a well established brand. I'm blowing my own trumpet here, but I think we're quite popular - people know who we are and what we're about.
"I actually started in 1988 or '89, which means we've spanned five decades so we're pretty established, and we've never had any negative press."
Mr Bavington-Barber added: "I'm an East Anglian boy, born in Lowestoft, went to uni in Norwich, then moved to Ipswich with a job.
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"I used to work for Burton menswear. When you are in retail, to get promoted you have to move around, I had a young family, and didn't really want to move so when a friend said they were looking for someone to start the franchise I went for this.
"I've learnt a few things since then, there have been some tough times— the recession in the 1990s, the financial crash in the 2000s, Covid, but I haven't regretted it."
Having been on the Cornhill since the 1980s, Mr Bavington-Barber is in an ideal position to comment on the changes that have impacted Ipswich.
"The storefronts are changing. When I first moved to Ipswich the buzz was the town was full of shoe shops. Now it's the towns full of phone shops. The narrative is the same but the specifics are different.
"They're a few more empty shops, especially on the peripheries, and when Debenhams went, that was a big loss for the town centre.
"I'm a strong believer in Ipswich as a town centre — like any village, city or town take pride in there centre I think the people of ipswich should take pride in theirs.
"When I'm on social media on a town specific Facebook page you'll get a lot of warriors who are quite negative.
"It feels like sometimes people are unhappy with the place, but when I talk to people on the street and my customers they're generally very happy."
Mr Bavington-Barber now counts many European residents among his loyal customers, including those Romanian, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Italians, something he didn't see in the 1980s, but he likes how diverse the town has become.
In the new year, the company is looking to introduce a vegan sausage, although they're not certain it will succeed.
"When we did an event for ARM in Cambridge they were very popular, but at weddings, when they say they have 15 vegans the guests eat four.
"That's the other area we've expanded into, doing events catering. Five years ago I might have done one or two weddings, whereas this year we've done 30 plus and I've got 25 booked for next year.
"Street food is very popular now, whereas when I started it wasn't, especially at events. At a wedding, you'd have a buffet, whereas now you'll have a street food vendor. As the high street slows down, this is a little bit of insurance for the company
"I work in partnership with my son now. He was the driving force behind the events business. We do Deliveroo and Ubereats during trading hours too, and it's a decent contribution to our turnover.
"Our core business is still the streets, but these are a way of responding to the way the world's changing. It seems crazy hotdogs could get online, but that's how we've achieved it.
"I still love it, and we have no intention of doing anything else."