The F WORD – fruit, flowers and family

Starlings of Swaffham is a family-run greengrocers and florists in the heart of Swaffham.
Founded in the 1950s by Basil Starling, it is now run by his daughter, Kim, and she shares the story of this 70-year-old business with nourish. 

“My father was demobbed from the RAF in the 1950s,” explains Kim. “He started selling fruit and vegetables in the 1950s at nearby Castle Acre, then opened Starlings of Swaffham in the 1960s, adding a floristry arm to the business. In 1997, I took over the business and I haven’t looked back; I love it!”

Kim, a trained chef, runs the business with the support of her mum Dorothy, who, at 77, still creates stunning pedestals. Also in the team is Jane, customer service and queen of holly wreaths; Trainee Manager Abbie; florist Jola, who has been with them for 17 years; driver Paul; and Head Florist Dee, who joined four months ago as sales of flowers increased. “This year has seen an enormous increase in weddings and celebrations,” explains Kim. “In particular, we are rather proud to have received a flower order for a very special 96-year-old. We specialise in bespoke work, including most recently a Hindu tribute and on another occasion a light bulb! Our flowers have always been popular, and it is fantastic to see this side of the company grow.”

In 2013, Starlings strengthened their business model as the high street was clearly changing, with
more shopping going online. “We embraced the internet and added Luxury Fruit Baskets™ to our business,” says Kim. “We deliver our fruit baskets across the UK, dealing with some prestigious companies and organisations, specialising in celebrations and religious festivals such as Eid, where we recently completed 50 baskets for a company based in Dubai who wanted fruit gifts for their UK friends and colleagues. During the pandemic, we saw this side of the business grow dramatically, and having an established online presence became even more vital as people wanted to send their loved ones a thoughtful gift.”

Abbie has been with Starlings for just over a year, and she is enjoying learning more about the business as the weeks go by. “It is a lovely environment to work in, and no two days are the same. I love this time of year with all the summer fruits – especially the strawberries!”

As well as the beautiful flowers at the back of the shop, the front is beginning to fill with seasonal summer produce, making this Kim’s favourite time of year. “I think the best thing about being in this job is developing a traditional business into something with community and family at its heart,” she says. “I am excited for the future and also for sharing our lovely produce with East Anglia – and beyond!” 

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