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EssentialCounter Culture – Te John Peel YE OF GOOD BEER!


Derek Beer is the manager of The John Peel, a café that appeals to all ages on the High Street in Shaftesbury, Dorset.


Derek Beer, manager of The John Peel in Shaftesbury, Dorset


Can you give us a brief history of the business? The John Peel opened on June 27, 1976. After working in the military, I started here on the first day – and 38 years later, I’m still here! Prior to the café opening, the shop was a hairdressers and the café was next door, with its bakery at the back of the hairdressers. In time, we developed the upstairs into an additional seating area.


Who works with you? We have 10 staff in total, which includes full-time and part- time positions. The team is very good and while I am the manager, the success of The John Peel is down to the team effort and all the hard work that the staff put in. We try and go for a young and energetic team where possible – remarkably, everyone that leaves here and goes off into the army, all end up at the level of Warrant Officer.


How is business currently? Business is brilliant at the moment. We have been here so long that we are trusted and people depend on us. The business is better than it has ever been, which, after 38 years, surprises me as I thought it would have levelled out by now!


How important is tourism to your business? In 1973, the infamous Hovis TV advertisement was filmed on Gold Hill in Shaftesbury. The ‘Boy on Bike’ advertisement – directed by Ridley Scott – has been voted Britain’s favourite advertisement of all time. Gold Hill also appears in the 1967 film version of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. Tourists come to Shaftesbury to see Gold Hill – we have generated a lot of businesses over the years from tourists. We also have tourists that come back year on year.


Do you compete with any large chains in your area? If so do you have a strategy for competing with larger companies?


A Costa outlet opened a few years ago, but we don’t compete. We get on with what we do and take no notice of anybody else. I don’t care about what others are selling or charging – I never look. We just get on to the best of our ability. I’m a councillor and have been mayor of Shaftesbury three times – when I’ve stood for election, I never looked at the opposition, I just got on with it.


Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, made famous in the 1970s Hovis bread TV ad


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