The Dispensary

The first of its kind in Salford- the Dispensary, a zero-waste, “eco-friendly store providing refills for toiletries and cleaning products” usually allows customers to bring in their own containers to refill in store.

Since re-opening on July 4th, the eight-month-old business has been able to provide for its loyal customers.

While the success of the shop continues, the Dispensary is now dealing with the challenge of remaining environmentally friendly during a pandemic that has seen an increase in single-use plastic.

Owner and school teacher Fay Watts manages the business in Walkden.

How was re-opening the store?

We couldn’t open on the day we wanted to. We felt a responsibility to stay alert and minimise the spread.

What changes have you had to make? 

We’ve had counters made and we’re doing all the serving…

With the pandemic its been a nightmare because of single use masks, gloves..I know that everything has to be safe and sealed but the climate crisis is a crisis. We’ve come so far over the past few years with plastic waste but now I’m worried that my yearly plastic allowance is being used in a day.

We’re zero waste, so we’ve upped our hygiene. Customers put their containers in a trug, we sanitise them, dry them with re-useable bamboo towels and I take them home to wash them all. We use a lot more hand sanitiser and have only two parties in the shop at once.

Credit: Fay Watts

What has the response from customers been so far? 

Really good. People appreciate we’ve got to have stricter hygiene measures and that we’re doing all the serving. We were really busy once we re-opened because people have been waiting and are trying to avoid buying plastic. Its quietened down the past few days but I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

I hope Salford stays behind us.

How did The Dispensary get on with your click and collect service during lockdown? 

I took the products home and closed the website down because it was stressful and wasn’t safe.

I used social media to provide an ongoing service for those who were using us anyway…because I don’t want them to turn back to the supermarkets and become reliant. We’ve worked too hard, they’ve worked too hard.

I’m a schoolteacher as well, I was working with the keyworkers kids but I also wanted to provide the essentials plastic free. So I did click and collect- but it was from my house and not from the shop.

It wasn’t safe to use customers own containers, so I was collecting any bottles I could get my hands on here and sanitising them. I spent hours cleaning, sanitising, drying and filling- it was hard work but the customers were so appreciative that I carried it on.

Credit: Fay Watts

Did you manage to raise £400 for Visit the stork CIC? 

Yes- I think it took about three days.

I’ve got a three-year-old, a five-year-old, during lockdown trying to do my jobs and I was thinking…I’ve got a really strong support system, I’m financially okay- but imagine what it would be like to not have those things?

The customers donated so that I could provide essentials for the families.

My customers are really caring people.

Do you feel that the government has done enough to help you?

I was lucky because I had another income from being a teacher.

I did get a grant to help, so that has meant we were able to survive during the pandemic and was able to invest some money back into the business.

We have been able to expand. We’ve signed a contract for the unit next door. We’re just waiting to receive the keys.

Its not risk free but I’m willing to take it and invest that money because I believe the customers are there.

Do you have any specific plans for the future?

Before the pandemic I had plans for a community hub, repair café, TerraCyle, a place where people can eat fresh produce but that all depends on funding.

I’ve got a lot of ideas and hopefully once things settle down we can push for some change in Salford.


Instagram: @thedispensarysalford

Facebook: The Dispensary


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