Last week I had the pleasure of spending a week in Scotland.  After the last 15 months we’ve had, it highlighted the importance of having a proper break to switch off and recharge the batteries.  On the way home from Scotland heading down the M6, we wanted to stop for a break so headed into the service station after we passed Penrith.  We were expecting the usual selection of American owned fast food chains, KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, Costa.  As soon as we drove off the motorway we hit a queue and realised that Tebay Services isn’t your usual service station; it’s independent.

Tebay Services was opened in 1972 by John and Barbara Dunning after the M6 motorway was built through their farm.  The farm is still there and supports the service station.  It took us 5 or so minutes to get a parking spot and the queue to get in was out of the door.  It made me think, why was this particular service station so busy?

You’ve probably already guessed what I think the answer is; it’s because of its independence.  Tebay Services provided a different and interesting offering to the usual options as well as better quality service and products (and healthier too).  What happens to the profits from Tebay?  They are likely going to be spent in the local community.  What happens to the profits from the other offerings on the M6?  They head back to the US.  The economic multiplier effect for supporting local businesses is huge.

It was obvious from the popularity of Tebay that others also prefer this service offering.  Why aren’t there other independent service stations?  The only other one I know of is near Gloucester on the M5.  I presume the answer is that the American chains will pay more and it prices independents out of the market.  We work across the road from Fosse Park, a large out-of-town retail park (majority owned by the Queen’s Crown Estate) in Leicester.  On the other side of the road there is a coffee shop called Jennos, an independently operated coffee shop, owned by a local family.  It’s packed day and night and serves great coffee.  Fosse Park has recently undergone a large expansion, including a larger food court.  Guess what the options are?  McDonald’s, Costa Coffee (two new ones have popped up), KFC; the same American owned chains that are on the services.  I think it’s really disappointing that the Crown Estate hasn’t taken this opportunity to support local businesses.

I haven’t been into the middle of the Leicester for a while, however I suspect a lot of the small, locally owned sandwich and coffee shops have closed.  After the last year we’ve had, we all really need to support local businesses to help them get back on their feet (or to support start-ups).  Amazon makes things so easy and convenient that it needs us to make an active decision to say no and get away from our screens to support others.  The benefit of supporting local businesses will be huge for communities and the resurrection of small town centres.  You’ll usually get superior products and services too. 

We’re independent and proud of it and we’ll do what we can support other independent businesses in the area.

Thanks for reading and