How the Fox & Hounds in Hunsdon was transformed from a well-respected pub into a community hub that has been a saviour during lockdown
James and Bianca Rix, who’ve independently owned and run the Fox & Hounds in Hunsdon for 15 years, have now transformed the pub into a community hub as well as a pub and restaurant with shop and café following the success of the pop-up shop they ran during the Covid-19 lockdown.
After they were forced to close the pub doors in mid-March, James and Bianca quickly turned their mind into how they could support the local community and keep their business going. They opened a twice weekly pop-up shop on the terrace a week after lockdown selling meals to finish at home, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat and other produce like flour and eggs that were hard to find in supermarkets and helped their local community access fresh produce.
Word quickly spread and the shop got busier every week with people enjoying some socially distanced interaction with their neighbours. People said they felt safer than going to a supermarket and were pleased to support the business while the pub was closed. As lockdown eased many customers asked them to keep the shop open and continue the take-away meals service, so James and Bianca have transformed an area inside the pub to open a shop and café and extended their opening hours so people can visit from 9am in the week and from 10am at the weekend. Coffee and pastries from a local bakery Dolce Forno are available to enjoy inside while, in the garden or to take-away. They are also encouraging people who are working at home to come in and take advantage of the space as a workspace as a break from working at home.
The shop sells a wonderful range of locally produced food and drink, including fresh pasta and sauces, sausage rolls, sweet and savoury tarts by chef owner James Rix. There is fresh fruit and vegetables and top quality meat, as well as deli items such as mozzarella and salami, and local Dawlicious ice cream. There are also gifts and homeware from Becky Alexander and Home County Candles and fresh flowers from a local florist Ivy Bloom.
The shop is also the collection point for pre-ordered meals to cook at home all prepared by James to the usual high standards you would expect from the Fox & Hounds. There is seasonal soup, savoury pies and quiches as well as fruit tarts and weekly changing curries and main courses such favourites as Melanzana parmigiana, duck confit or fragrant beef curry, pilaf rice and raita, as well as full Sunday lunches that just need warming up at home and enjoying.
Bianca says: “We were overwhelmed with the support we received from our local community for our pop-up shop during lockdown and flattered by all the requests we had to keep it open when we reopened the pub. We felt it would be crazy not to use this experience to adapt our business and to continue to serve our community. The Fox Shop is all about offering quality rather than quantity and we hope people will enjoy shopping whether it’s to pick up some essential vegetables and meat, to collect one of our finish at home meals or to buy a gift for a friend.”