We recently had the pleasure of talking to Chris D’Sylva, an entrepreneur and founder of The Notting Hill Fish Shop. Chris shared his story of opening the business in October 2019 and how, as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, he created a new style of supermarket that one can only dream of...
A bit about Chris
Having grown up in Melbourne, Chris spent the first part of his career working in advertising and brand planning. He took these skills to the UK and then to the U.S. where he was Global Director for Brand Strategy at Chevrolet in Detroit. However, while in the U.S. Chris met his "English Rose" and had ideas he wanted to explore in the restaurant space back in the UK; so he returned to Notting Hill.
The Notting Hill Fish Shop
After several years back in London and several ventures later, when Chris' local fishmonger closed it left a culinary void, not only for Chris, but also for the local Notting Hill residents too. So in October 2019 Chris decided to dust off his catering equipment from a former business and opened the Notting Hill Fish Shop on the corner of the iconic Portobello Road.
The shop was set in a large open space that was previously an art gallery. Not only did the unique design invite initial interest, but the focus on providing the highest quality ingredients made it a firm favourite for the West London locals. The shop was an instant success.
Then came 2020
As the Covid-19 pandemic began to unravel, Chris observed what was happening globally to the retail and food market and began to prepare his business accordingly. Following insights from a friend in Singapore, Chris re-registered the Notting Hill Fish Shop as a supermarket so he could continue to provide a service after the compulsory closure of retail premises. And just in time. Like the rest of the world, Notting Hill and London went into lockdown.
Having built a strong network in the restaurant space Chris was checking in with friends, contacts and suppliers who were seeing their demand disappear overnight. With the Notting Hill Fish Shop continuing to provide fish to the local residents, Chris invited others to set up pop-up stands in the shop at no cost. This included the iconic HG Walter butchers and Neal's Yard Dairy. Not only did this help their businesses and protect their employees from redundancies, but it provided a wider range of produce for local residents.
As the queues for the Notting Hill Fish Shop grew, Chris brought forward his plan for an online platform by six months, and within a week had a fully functioning website and delivery service in operation.
The demand grew so quickly that Chris needed a larger space from which to operate the shop-turned-supermarket. As he searched for a new venue, Chris's entrepreneurial mindset kicked in, and an idea formed.
The Supermarket of Dreams
Chris had a vision to create his dream supermarket through curating a collection of all the popular local eateries that people were missing out on during lockdown, including Kricket, Patty & Bun and Ottolenghi. Adding to the mix, Chris invited London's youngest and best chefs to be a part of the venture, creating high quality delicious food to go.
This kind of business partnership is a process which could arguably take months to set up. However, Chris managed this almost overnight. With limited options available, Chris found a retail space on Holland Park Avenue and the Supermarket of Dreams became a reality in June 2020.
In order to create an impact, Chris wanted to do something completely different to the style of the local area and came up with a hot-pink logo and bold designs. The Supermarket of Dreams instantly caught the attention of the local community and has become the hub for food in the local area. It is a completely new hybrid concept of hospitality and retail which evolved in a short space of time to become the most avant-garde supermarket.
Community comes first
It's clear that Chris' entrepreneurial vision and previous experience has been fundamental to the success of the Notting Hill Fish Shop and the Supermarket of Dreams. The ability to be agile and adapt quickly as the unimaginable happened was vital. However, it's his passion for the local community that has driven these businesses to succeed in the way they have. Chris put social motivation at the forefront of all his decisions, including growing his staff from three to fifty, whilst never compromising on the quality of his offering. Chris' drive and optimism in what has been a difficult time for retail and hospitality provides hope that the sector can bounce back and operate successfully in society's "new normal".
Check out the Supermarket of Dreams in Holland Park, and the Notting Hill Fish Shop which will reopen in September after refurbishment.