Minnie Moll is the new Chief Executive of Jarrold Retail in Norwich. And it sounds as though the self-confessed foodie is in her element at the independent department store, as Emma Outten finds out
The new Chief Executive of Jarrold Retail has never been drawn to the corporates. Sitting in Benji’s Restaurant on the first floor of the Norwich department store, and chatting over a cup of tea, Minnie Moll says: ‘I’ve always been drawn to independent businesses with independent spirit.’
Minnie took up the post in July of last year, meaning life has come full circle, as she was born in Norwich. Proud to call herself an East Anglian girl, Minnie grew up on a Thames Sailing Barge in Pin Mill, Suffolk, before going off to work in London for most of her career, in marketing, innovation and strategic consultancy. However, she moved back to East Anglia 12 years ago, becoming Marketing Director of Notcutts Garden Centre Group, then, most recently, the Joint Chief Executive of the East of England Coop, the largest independent retailer in the region. During her tenure there, she was appointed by HRH Prince Charles as his Ambassador for Responsible Business in the East of England, for a two-year term. And she is also the first Ambassador for Fresh Start – New Beginnings, the East Anglian charity supporting child victims of sexual abuse.
Since joining Jarrold, the store has enjoyed its ‘best Christmas ever,’ says Minnie (not that she is taking all the credit for it). ‘I’m really pleased to say Jarrold is bucking the retail trend. To have such a good Christmas in such a tough retail climate is something we’re incredibly pleased about.’
Minnie doesn’t talk about being in retail as such. Rather, Jarrold’s vision involves creating outstanding experiences and, with numerous places to eat and drink inside the store, there is plenty of scope to create those experiences. As she says: ‘There’s been a real shift in retail – if people are going to get off their sofas and laptops to go shopping on the high street, it’s got to be a good experience. And eating is a key part of that. We are so much more than just retail.’
As part of an extensive rebranding and refurbishment programme, Jarrold launched ‘Downstairs at Jarrold’s’ in the autumn of 2017, complete with a new look deli and wine bar. She says: ‘When I go round and ask customers what they think of it, time and again people say ‘it’s like sitting in Selfridges or Harvey Nicks, but in Norwich.’
Next, Café Metro was transformed into The Exchange, a bistro with an impressive wood fired pizza oven. Minnie says of the finished product: ‘They are beautiful, proper pizzas with really interesting toppings and are going brilliantly.’
Add in the older favourites: Chapters Coffee Bar, near the Book Department; The Pantry Restaurant on Floor 3 (‘according to one customer on social media, they do the best scone in the world’) and Benji’s Restaurant on Floor 1 (Minnie took a group of MDs and Chief Execs from Suffolk there for lunch recently, and they were ‘blown away’, apparently) and customers really are spoilt for choice.
And there are even plans for a new place to eat, on the second floor – watch this space! Minnie describes Executive Chef Nick Harris, who has worked at prestigious establishments such as The Lanesborough in London’s West End before now, ‘as a bit too much of a well-kept secret for my liking. One of my ambitions is to make sure more people know about him and the wonderful impact he’s had on our food offer generally.’
Aside from the restaurants, the Food Hall is well-stocked with local food and drink, something Minnie is particularly pleased about as she is a lover of local produce. ‘I love food, full-stop, but particularly local. I’m really proud of everything we did at the Co-op, with Sourced Locally, and I knew a lot of the really good local producers across the region – and many, I’m delighted to say, we are stocking in some way, shape or form in our deli. I get quite passionate about food miles and where our food comes from – I’m a farmer’s daughter, and a lot of what we ate, we grew.’
Nowadays, Minnie lives in the Waveney Valley with her husband, and a menagerie of animals – her twin daughters are 21 and away at university. At home she’s a passionate gardener. ‘We have our own chickens so we have our own eggs, we have a small orchard and make our own apple juice each year and we’ve got a greenhouse and grow veg – I’ve always grown my own beans, tomatoes and spuds.’ As for eating out, she likes a good village pub such as the King’s Head in Brockdish on the Norfolk/Suffolk border (‘they’ve got a really good pizza oven in there’), although she adds: ‘Here in Norwich you’ve got fantastic restaurants.’ The Grosvenor Fish Bar gets special mention as she walks past it every day after work: ‘There’s a queue every single night!’
But back to business. Next year is Jarrold’s 250th anniversary, and Minnie, a business leader with more than 25 years’ experience of brand and retail marketing, says: ‘The time is right for a brand like Jarrold – it’s local and independent, and supports local and independent brands.’
Featured in issue 35 – April 2019