Tom is a long-standing friend of the Bite Sussex team – and a long time champion of all things Sussex food and drink – so it's been amazing to see the success of Bottle & Jug Dept in Worthing. [this story first appeared in the Brighton Argus on 28 May 2021].
Tell us about Bottle & Jug Dept
We opened Bottle & Jug Dept in May 2018 as there was nowhere in Worthing where people could purchase quality craft beers and wine to enjoy at home. Worthing already had a great pub scene but nothing in terms of a shop. Our focus is on celebrating quality products that come from independent businesses. We stock items that you would not find in mainstream retailers.
What’s your background… how did you come to be running the business?
I spent many years trying to live the 9 to 5 life working in offices, but eventually grew tired of pretending to care and thought there must be more to life than the rat race. I’ve always been into food and drink and took the plunge quitting my job to write about restaurants and food as a freelancer. That worked out for a while, but I often came up against the struggle of people offering exposure over actual cash. I was working with John and Aaron at the Brooksteed pub in Worthing, and when the unit became available over the road, I suggested we open a shop and here we are three year later.
What’s drinks do you focus on?
As a Sussex business we feel it is important to support local producers who we can have a much more personal relationship with. Thankfully here in Sussex we have an abundance of superb local drinks producers who share our passion for quality and innovation. When it comes to our wines, I wanted to focus almost exclusively on natural and organic wines. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors used in the drinks industry, with poor quality products being marketed as something they are not. With natural wines there is nowhere to hide. They are pure expressions of the relationship between nature and the people who work the land; doing their upmost to protect the future of the environment by putting sustainability over profit.
Can you recommend a couple of Sussex produced wines that you stock?
When it comes to traditional method English sparkling wine then Wiston Estate can’t be ignored. They have one of the best winemakers in the UK – Dermot Sugrue – and their wines are second to none. We’ve also worked with Fitz wine since day one and it is fantastic to see how much they have grown since those early days, a real Worthing success story.
Why would you encourage people shop with independent drink shops rather than supermarkets?
By shopping with an independent you are opening yourself up to a new experience. We offer the opportunity to find something different and exciting that you will not get by shopping in the supermarket. For me when I shop at an independent it is about engaging with what I am buying, seeking out something unique and making a real connection with what I buy and consume. It is about stepping out of your comfort zone, breaking out of the same old routine and trying something new.
You’ve got an impressive presence on social media – is that important to your business?
Social media is the bane of my life, but it is so important that it cannot be ignored. As a small business it is a great way to engage with customers new and old, showcase our products and what we do.
Since opening have you seen the food and drink scene in Worthing growing?
Worthing has really changed in the last few years, and it’s great to see. When I first moved here there was already a fantastic local pub scene and now we have got great cafés and restaurants to complement it. We’ve a fantastic casual dining scene and – provided people continue to support small local independent businesses – I can only see things going from strength-to-strength as more people move to the area and see Worthing’s potential.
Where do you like to eat and drink in Worthing?
Ever since I moved to Worthing one of my favourite things to do has been to wander down to Crabshack and eat a crab sandwich by the sea. You simply can’t beat fresh fish with a sea breeze. During lockdown take-out has been important and the best I’ve had was from MacMillans – those guys are really pushing the boat out and doing something different,. Pizzaface is my go-to when it comes to a takeaway pizza as no one else comes close.
Bottle & Jug Dept, 21 South Farm Road, Worthing BN14 7AD