This time, The Interview Series heads over to the Isle of Wight to meet Poppy at the Django Jazz bar.
Hi Poppy. Tell us about Django.
Django’s is a vegan jazz & tapas bar on the Isle of Wight. Located on a beautiful 15th century courtyard, it’s serenity and beauty add to the charm we like to create. We host live jazz and serve seasonal tapas. I am Poppy Dee, a jazz singer, I co own Django’s, and am the resident singer, and my partner, Aidan Gant, is our incredible vegan chef and the other half of ownership. Django’s is located down a winding lane in the country side, and is 100% unique in more ways than one! Inside, Django’s is decorated in a vintage style, to match the music and the quality of the food and also the surroundings
1 year and 1 month!
Who do you cater to? What kind of people, age-group are you seeing most interest from?
We have a total range of customers, from young, curious about veganism folk, to 80 year old jazz lovers. We have meat eaters that come and enjoy our food and music, strict vegans, families with young children. teenagers that want to experience something different, ladies that catch up over our lovely wine menu, and big groups of special occasion parties. We can’t say we only have a certain group of people that come to seek us out.
How old is your average customer?
How was your business affected by the quarantine period of the pandemic? What measures did you take to keep afloat? How is your business now that we are re-opening?
Our business was closed when lock down hit, and we decided not to do take aways as we are tucked away in the country side, and I think we made the right decision. We have turned to social media and online content, trying to be creative with live streamed gigs from home, and foraging on the beaches for seaweed and in the country for wild garlic.
It has of course been a huge worry, but luckily we have incredibly supportive landlords that want us to stay for the long term, so we weren’t hit with huge bills and rent costs.
We aren’t going to reopen straight away, we are still concerned not enough people will venture out for us to carry on being successful, so we are going to wait a little while (while we are making changes indoors with a vintage style refurbishment), and when we feel it is 100% sensible and safe to reopen, we will do. It might be in a few weeks, it might be in a couple of months. We will know when the right time is.
How do you perceive the vegan & eco-friendly market in your area, in terms of business and how do you see the local consumer? Is it growing? Stable?
In the UK generally, the Vegan market is thriving. For health reasons, eco friendly reasons, or plain curiosity, it is huge here, especially in the cities. On the Isle of Wight, it isn’t as much of a big deal as it in the city, but the Vegan community here is growing and growing. Business wise, it is busy and thriving because even if people aren’t vegan, their curiosity brings them to us, especially as Aidan’s food is so delicious. Growing vegetables and cooking with 0 food mile vegetable seems to be on the rise also, which is great for us as all of our food is cooked with vegetables that have travelled all of 0-5 miles.
Give us a little background about how veganism is perceived in the Isle of Wight. Is there a cultural clash? Does local media give space to the vegan lifestyle in news channels, lifestyle channels, magazines, etc?
It totally depends where you are in the country. I find in the city, more people are vegan than not, and in the country side, most people love fish and meat. But that is just my perception. We feel rural areas are slightly behind cities, for example, London and Brighton have vegan restaurant scattered every you look, and the Isle of Wight only have three vegan restaurants/cafe’s.
In Somerset, I couldn’t name one vegan restaurant but in Exeter I could name a few. Local media have been extremely supportive, helping us promote our business when we opened, and took huge interest when they heard we were a vegan jazz & tapas bar. Local celebrities definitely support the vegan community, and are a great help with educating others. There can be a clash sometimes, but if you have a positive attitude and you help educate people rather than preach to others, then it normally turns into a positive conversation, because that is what life should be about, educating and helping others!
How do you manage to reach out to your clientele? Social media? Advertising? Other? How hard is it for you to market your business?
We use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, we are starting to use a subscription service for customers so we can e-mail them all with updates as much as possible. We also use our website to promote our products and events.
We try to ignore promoters/marketers that clearly only care about getting money out of us, so we politely decline anyone that doesn’t take a genuine interest in what we are trying to achieve here.
It has been reasonably challenging self marketing, because neither of us are tech savvy, but we have been watching YouTube videos and researching great techniques to advertise, which has been fantastically helpful.
I think that understanding how veganism is doing in a small-ish community like the Isle of Wight, we can better understand, maybe, just how much veganism is growing. So, if I could just squeeze a little more from you regarding the the local vegan scene. Do major supermarkets in the Isle of Wight, for example, offer a good array of vegan products on their shelves?
Our supermarkets are great, more so in the city, but even on the Isle of Wight the major supermarkets are really starting to stock amazing vegan products. We mainly shop at Tescos and Asda.
How about you? Can you give us a little background about your personal journey as a vegan? How long have you been a vegan? Why did you choose to adopt veganism?
Aidan has been vegan for 7 years, and I have only been vegan for 18 months now. We both changed our diets mainly for animal rights, but saving the planet was also a hugely persuading and undeniable factor. The health benefits are just an amazing bonus. We like to do our research broadly, and look into science and eco friendly platforms, because sometimes the news is quite media bias. So we try to avoid watching the news, and head to the WHO and listen to trusted scientists for our information.
What drove you to open a vegan business? And what difficulties, if any, did you come across to achieve your objective?
We have both always wanted our own business. Aidan wanted to open a vegan restaurant as he hated cooking animal products for other business owners, and wanted to show how tasty plant based food can be. I have owned a Motown Bar in the past, and wanted to open a jazz club one day. We bumped into Aidan’s friend Freya one day, who was interested in showing him a tea room on the land where we are situated, so we both went to view it out of curiosity, and fell in love with the scenery and the potential, and the land owners! I can’t remember us having massive difficulties, only my own doubts in my head, worrying about alienating non vegans, which has never been the case. We wanted to show others how being vegan can very much be more exciting than being a non vegan, and I for one have never had tastier food than since I have been with Aidan! There are also so many heavy meat based restaurants, and we could never eat at them because the vegan options were limited, so we wanted to change that.
I just want to say, if you are ever on the Isle of Wight, please come and say hello, we have a beautiful wine menu, seasonal tapas menu, and have amazing live jazz throughout the year, including seated concerts, and in the summer everyone gathers in the courtyard to listen to some live jazz and wander around the land. It is a unique experience we give here at Django’s. Please keep an eye on our social media platforms to find out when we will be re opening.