An independent business is like no other – you feel that the owner knows their products, gives top service and then also knows your name when you revisit them time after time, which you’ll no doubt do after experiencing the former! Plus, there’s also the huge benefit that you’re helping a small business – and giving a lifeline to small producers and makers. So, to celebrate all that they do for you and the community, we’re rounding up the best ways to go independent in Kent.
Wander the streets from arriving in the station, or cycling in through from the villages nearby and you’ll quickly see the reason we’ve included the city of Canterbury on this list. From the likes of independent cafes and shops such as the Refectory Kitchen and the Goods Shed near the station to Fitzgerald and Fudge Kitchen by the Cathedral, there are a plethora of stores which are a welcome sight to those growing a little tired of the big names. Explore Visit Canterbury’s bigger list here, which covers homewares to sweets.
For seven strong years, Kent Cookery School in Ashford has been the go-to place in Kent for cookery lessons. Whether you want to learn to bake bread, create a curry or master Mexican dishes, there’s very little that’s not covered on their course list. If you’d also like to do something a little more bespoke, consider holding your next birthday party, anniversary or other celebration over a foodie course!
Simplify your Christmas this year with Produced in Kent’s Christmas Directory. Using this helpful tool, track down the locally made, Kentish gifts which could cover everyone from aunties to sisters. For instance, if you head into the Christmas Food section you’ve got the go-to spots for seasonal themed ice cream at Solley’s and independent ale makers. In the Eat, Drink and Stay you’ll be able to find ideas for overnight stays which would make for a cosy affair, like the Romney Marsh Shepherd Huts or the magnificent Boys Hall.
Over in Thanet, the bustling towns are full to the rafters of independent paradises. For example, if you need a day out which is quite unlike anything else in the county, head to the Margate Caves and Shell Grotto. These underworld spots are run by small teams and have brilliant gift shops onsite.
For those looking for dedicated indie shops, we’d head to Ramsgate – find Tales on Moon Lane bookshop which sells a number of children’s books and toys, and just outside the town is Petticoat Lane Emporium – an enormous site which is home to heaps of independent stalls owned by local traders selling antiques, collectables, and plenty of vintage goods.
The seaside town of Deal is known for its smuggling history, with the backstreets once warrens for bringing goods into and hiding in the town. Today the town still has a bustling nature, but this time with independent stores! Find Arno & Co, which is a modern grocer which brings together small produced wine and food – think homemade delicious treats for all the family – whether at home or sitting on the beach! If you’re in the town on a Saturday, take a wander to the Deal Saturday Market where you will spot the enormous line that comes from Bygga Bo! Their Swedish buns are famous in South East Kent and perfect for fika!
So if you’ve ventured to the coastline, where are you to stay? Handily, Keepers Cottages has houses to rent which are situated right in the centre of town, so you can create your own gift smuggling stories!
For one of our picks for Maidstone’s independent businesses, we’ve gone a little français. Situated under the colonnades off Earl Street, Frederic's is a brilliant bistro with a wonderful wine shop to go with it. Here you can shop for fantastic wines to go with your Christmas Special meals and get great advice from the people who know it best!
Just south of Maidstone town, is Loddington Farm, which prides itself on farming with nature, not against it or using chemicals, which we can certainly get behind. Pick out your seasonal produce, as well as gifts and treats from local producers across the county – deli products, cakes to juices.
With the explosion of AI in recent months, we’re certainly looking at ways to embrace the artificial world. In Ashford a new entertainment space, Virtual Recreation, has launched that gives visitors the chance to roam virtual worlds, where you can choose from over 40 games – sport, action and more. If you’ve had a bit too much VR, you can finish your afternoon off by relaxing in the Rec Room, with food and coffee from local producers over a game of air hockey!