Lucy’s of Ambleside

The Lucy Story

Lucy’s has been part of Ambleside since the last century! It all started back in 1989.

Let’s let Lucy tell the story

When I first moved to the Lakes in the early 80s from a busy life in the ‘south’ to marry a ‘northerner’ … I genuinely thought that I must have died and gone to hell … (to someone in their 20s life was very different ‘up north’ … half day closing, you couldn’t buy a loaf of bread or a pint of milk after 5pm, a choice of red or white cheese, tinned grapefruit was considered an acceptable starter… and everyone was tucked up by about 9pm – and a night out was in the pub!).

Thankfully, the beauty of the area, the kindness of the people I met, having my beautiful children and eventually building a business I loved won me over!

I decided that due to personal circumstances it would be better if I became self employed and could be a bit more selective about when I worked, what I did and this would give me more time for the family (was I really that naïve??).

When the opportunity to take on the lease of a small premises in Church Street presented itself, it seemed the perfect solution to creating an income whilst combining the pleasure of food together with the love of people. So, Lucy’s Specialist Grocers was born.

If you are reading this and under the age of 30? You need to think… BC (before computers) – if you wanted information you went to the library. BMP (Before Mobile Phones) … we still had a telephone directory and yellow pages then (ask your parents and grandparents about that!)  So, no internet, Amazon, click and collect, Youtube, instagram, TikTok… you’re probably thinking WHAAAT … Nothing!!

Trust me, we had plenty. What we did have was plenty of personal interaction. If Elsie hadn’t been in for her loaf of bread on a Friday, you went to knock on her door to check she was OK, the Freemans had a regular weekly order of bacon for their guest house, if the Monday delivery didn’t turn up by 9am you didn’t call to check at 9.05am… you get the picture …people paid for things with ‘real money’, life was simpler, more personal and much less ‘instant’ – we’re not saying it was better … it was, well, different.

So, in order to discover new products we went out to find them … you didn’t ‘scroll down’ or ‘google’.

Instead, everytime you saw a sign that said ‘honey for sale’ … or ‘fresh home made produce’ … you went up the lane to check it out! (the children used to call it ‘shopshopping’! I am immensely proud of the little store we created and (eventually) what we became … stocking all kinds of delicious and intriguing delicacies … alongside cornflakes and baked beans (which we did manage to upgrade to muesli and cannellini beans!!)   But it was not an easy journey by any stretch. 

Part of my saving grace was that in another life I had lived and worked in London and had a great friend who was working as a stylist with Delia Smith (a stylist is someone who puts together all the things that a presenter uses and makes) … Delia was doing her Christmas programme and one of the things she was making was a rich and indulgent chocolate torte, which required the following items … Dark Mernier Chocolate, Liquid glucose and Amaretti biscuits … with a wonderful advance ‘heads up’ … I bought all those things in preparation.

Wow … the power of TV (which to be honest I already understood!)   We went from being known as ‘the expensive shop in Church Street’ … to ‘if you want something special, go to Lucy’s’.  Hurray at last we were starting to gather momentum.

The buyer at the  ‘new’ Booths in Windermere used to regularly visit us to check out our shelves (I loved that!) and I can remember talking about all our gluten free produce we stocked and that one day people would fully understand the importance of the need to stock items for people with dietary needs (needless to say my comments went down like a lead balloon!).

In 1996 Lucy’s on a plate was ‘born’ … really this was just somewhere that we could encourage people to sit down and ‘eat’ the things that I had cooked to prevent having to throw them away – if you have a shop, with fresh produce you would sell 50% and then either discount the rest by 50% or throw it away … it was a bit of a lose/lose situation.

Having the café did mean that we could make delicious dishes before everything became unusable …  ‘Toad in the hole’, soups, interesting sandwiches and so on.  Anyone reaching the end of the week and looking in the fridge wondering what to make will know what I mean!

Over the years, it’s been quite a rocky road to get to where we are now …. and anyone who thinks that it’s been a ‘piece of cake’ … is very much mistaken – anything worth having takes a lot to get and one of my favourite sayings is…

‘The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary’ – How true!

Family Tree (Key Personnel)

  • General Manager – Lucy Nicholson
  • Restaurant Manager – Recruiting
  • Accounts Manager – Jenny Wraith
  • Office and Bookings Manager – Hannah
  • Outside Catering Manager – Lucy Barron
  • Kings of Kitchen– Attila Gonczi
  • Kings of the Kitchen – Sorin
  • Queen of desserts – Maria Gentiana
  • Kings of the Kitchen – Nicu

The Next Generation

  • Mila
  • Isla