What is your full name?

I am Patricia Harrison

What is the name and address of your business?

Ceci Paolo, 21 High Street, Ledbury. HR8 1DS.

Are you the owner?

The business is a family business owned by myself, my husband Paul and my daughter Gini. I am the founder and Managing Director. In the shop I am ably supported by a talented, competent and friendly team who share my passion for offering the best possible customer service. I now concentrate on buying and the development of the business nationally and internationally through our website www.cecipaolo.com

What do you sell?

My life-long dream was to have a shop – not just any shop but an emporium that would spark a feeling of excitement and anticipation as soon as you enter it. Twenty five years ago I set out to build such an emporium in our large 16th century building in Ledbury, sharing all the things I love - food, wine, clothing and beautiful, stylish but useful objects for the home.

The deli on the ground floor stocks a large range of cheeses, smoked fish, cured meats, dairy, and our own salads, tarts, frozen meals and baked goods. Specialising in Mediterranean & Oriental ingredients, as well as hard-to-find ingredients, we also offer advice on how to use them. Everything we produce or sell meets our own Good Taste Test and is carefully selected from only the best and often small producers.

Together with "The Kitchen Cupboard", a speciality cookware shop that is a tenant within our building, we stock just about everything you could need for your kitchen under one roof. Our kitchenware is dominated by a large Le Creuset collection. Gifts are well thought-out and unusual be they stationery, gadgets, plain good ideas or just fun. The product selection is always evolving.

Our exquisite clothes’ ranges have several things in common – they are stylish, comfortable, generous, exceptionally well-made, mainly in natural fabrics, and are fashionable yet beyond fashion. I think of many as heirloom pieces that have been made to last and will be handed down through the generations.

Reflecting my Australian origin, an oriental flavour also runs through the shop with antique and modern Japanese and Chinese furniture, lighting, kimono, jewellery, ceramics, stationery, food ingredients and, of course, sake.

What is your best selling line at the shop?

It is impossible to name just one best selling line in the shop because of the range and variety of products. In the deli the best selling lines are our own prepared foods including tarts, salads, frozen meals and cakes; cheese; and award winning Peter Cooks Bread.

As a Le Creuset Centre the most popular items are their wonderful Toughened Non Stick range of griddles, casseroles and fry pans as well as the colourful enamelled cookware. Funny cards and novelty tech and stationery products from Italian brand, Legami, are very popular too.

In our spacious first floor Clothing Department, I have focused on brands that have a somewhat cult status. We are the only boutique in the country to stock our bestselling brand from UK designer, Eskandar, whose clothes have attracted a number of celebrity customers and women at the top of their professions around the world. Japanese brand, Yacco Maricard, is a winner too with signature pintucked cotton shirts that were declared as an Essential Desert Island item on an episode of Desert Island Discs. A very special silk collection from Portuguese designer, Teresa Martins, is the next best seller, particularly now as celebrations are back on the agenda.

Where do you get your stock from?

That’s an interesting question because it was the first thing I had to ask myself in November 1996 when I had the eureka moment to set up a small ‘pop up’ Italian deli in our building to bring the then unknown Panettone to Ledbury. I knew how to shop but I knew absolutely nothing about retailing and how to get supplies. Fortunately I knew a man who did – Paul Ceci whose Italian family ran an Italian deli in Worcester. Together we started a temporary deli named after the Italian format of his name – Paolo Ceci. The temporary grew very permanent as I expanded into the Ceci Paolo of today with many changes along the way as I had to react and adjust to changing circumstances. Althougeh Paul dropped out as a partner early on, to this day he remains one of our suppliers albeit from Italy.

Initially I found new suppliers at Trade Shows in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Australia and the US. Many of our suppliers started business around the same time we did and remain friends. With Trade Shows only just restarting we have relied upon finding new products by their being presented to us directly by manufacturers or agents.

As a lot of our stock is imported either by ourselves or through distributors, we have been adversely affected by Brexit and the Pandemic and the increased cost of doing business with the rest of the world. Wherever possible I am now trying to keep our prices stable by forward buying or shaving margins.

What is the weirdest thing you have been asked for at Ceci Paolo?

We don’t get asked for too many weird things. However, we often have customers asking us why we’ve stopped selling something we’ve never actually sold. They will argue until they’re blue in the face that they’ve bought it here before and nothing we say convinces them otherwise.

What is the origin of the name Ceci Paolo?

See above.

What is Ledbury like as a town to operate in?

I fell in love with Ledbury the first time we drove into it in 1983. I fell in love with the house we bought as soon as we walked into it. I fell in love with the 16th century building that is 21 High Street when we bought it in 1985. I’m just as enamoured now of our town, our house and our shop as I was nearly 40 years ago. During the pandemic the way the town leapt into action supporting the vulnerable was extraordinary and we were proud to play a part in it. Walk down the street in Ledbury and people greet each other whether strangers or not. Ledbury isn’t just a town, it’s a community. We’re also very proud to support other shopkeepers and local sports and their charities. (We have a pitch board at the Ledbury Rugby Club; we sponsor the fourth ladies’ tee at the Worcestershire Golf Club (Malvern); we have regularly been one of the sponsors of the GLADRAGS charity day; and our adopted charities are Macmillan and Marie Curie Nurses.)

While Ledbury often appears at the edge of maps, pan out and it becomes obvious that it is in the centre of the country surrounded by clusters of villages, towns in under 20 miles and the cities of Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff in under 70 miles. This small country market town with good rail and road connections actually has access to a rather large potential market. Our customer base very much reflects this. The proliferation now of quality independent shops and traders within the town makes Ledbury a popular tourist and shopping destination to everyone’s benefit.

Anything else you would like to add?

I think I’ve covered all I wanted to say and probably a lot more than you wanted.