Monday, March 15, 2010

The British Connection - An Interview

Pretty much any expat, whatever country they originally come from, will find themselves craving an item from "home." Fortunately, there are enterprising individuals who see the opportunity in supplying such items. The British Connection is a store in Absecon, New Jersey, run by Dave Brown, an expat originally from London, and his American Wife Barbara. After running their store in Historic Smithville Village for seven years, they moved about a year ago to the new location, where they have been able to expand their business, adding a large selection of cheeses and a small cafe. Barbara very kindly allowed me to bombard her with questions.

With an entertainment background, Dave first met Barbara when he was running a karaoke night in London. After he tried to drag her up on stage with him, she thought he was "a bit cheeky, but called him anyway." They came to the US to pursue entertainment opportunities in the casinos in Atlantic City, NJ. Unfortunately, they found the casinos had been converting their lounges to slot-machine parlors. Making the best of it, they started an entertainment business, doing children's shows and parties. Barbara was, quite literally, a clown - also "Minnie Mouse, Cinderella...and a Teletubby." During a visit to Barbara's parents in Florida, her Mother suggested they visit a store called The Brit Shoppe. The couple "were amazed to find some of our foods we missed from the U.K.! Three months later, the British Connection was up and running!"

I asked Barbara about some of their own favorite British foods. Barbara said she loves HP Sauce and Branston Pickle, while "Dave is all about the chocolates and bacon!" On the question of "Marmite: Love it or Hate it?" they are the exception to the rule; they both "like" it. Asked whether there was something she'd like to explain to their customers, given the opportunity, Barbara said "it's o.k. to laugh at the spotted dick...everyone does!" One question that Barbara is often asked is why she hasn't got a British accent; Dave gets asked what part of Australia he comes from! Barbara believes that most of their customers are expat Brits, but she admitted, "maybe they just come in more often." One of the recent additions was a cafe area, where Barbara often relaxes and has a cup of tea and a chat with her regulars: "I have to say the people that come in are really wonderful and great conversationalists. Part of the reason that I created the cafe section was so that we could sit and have a cuppa."

When asked what they miss about life in England, it came as no surprise to me that Barbara mentioned pubs. Although they enjoy relaxing over a meal and drinks with friends, they don't have a favorite bar in the US, but they do have friends with pubs in the UK: "The Hare and Hounds in Godstone is good fun, and another friend in London owned a pub called Novello's in Fulham. She had an Elvis impersonator there 2 nights a week for 10 years, Brilliant!" I asked Barbara about how often they got to visit England: "Not as often as we would like. We try to get there once a year, but we do like to travel to other sometimes we miss a year. We usually have visitors every year - we keep the guest rooms ready!"

Have you visited the store? Do you have any favorite places to get international foods? Let me know.

No comments: