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The A to Z of awesome small businesses

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

OK, I hold my hands up. This is almost certainly not a complete guide. And I know I will have missed integral people and businesses in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

But if you would have chosen differently, or you have additional category winners (to you) then please send them over. I would always love to add more to the list. Because our local Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire are essential to the richness of our towns.

This is my wonderful A-Z go-to guide. All views and opinions are my own. I have paid for everything and none of these businesses knew that I was going to write these glowing reviews.

I really do just have a passion for sharing our local, excellent, small Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire businesses.

Love from Andrea

A is for.....

The list needs to start with acupuncture. Of course. If you need acupuncture in Hertfordshire, then I am your person. I offer mobile acupuncture in your home which means you are not taking time out of your busy day and can continue relaxing after the treatment. Take a look here for what acupuncture might help with.

For automobiles, I always go to Top Marques in Hitchin. They are knowledgeable, friendly and never make me feel stupid for my questions about my car.

I wanted to add the English Caravan Company to this section because they convert caravans into the most dreamy and unique travelling spaces. They are based in Baldock and I am saving my pennies hard to one day own one of their beautiful creations. I couldn't add them to the "C" section because I already have far too many vying for that space.

B is for .....

I love a bakery. I love the smell. I obviously love the products. And we have quite a choice locally.

From Simmons who have stores across Hertfordshire to Leavened in Stevenage and Quotidian in Hitchin.

Jo's Loaves is also epic and you can buy her bread in lots of stores in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

We have lots to choose from for our baked items.

There is only one bookstore for me in Hertfordshire. That is David's Bookshop in Letchworth. I could spend hours (and pounds) immersing myself in the thousands of new and secondhand books they have. Their range, choice and passion for their shop and books is testament to this team who run the shop.


Should I have put cafe or cake? Well, it was a tricky one. Because as I said before the "C" section was quite busy already. So, I went with cafe. Again, so much choice in Hertfordshire but these are my current favourites:

Cafe Nourish in Letchworth is in a beautiful setting with gorgeous vegetarian and vegan food and drinks.

The Groundworks in Hitchin. Food is yum. Coffee is yum. Right outside St Mary's Church in Hitchin, so location is also yum.

Cafe Luna in Baldock. I love sitting outside their lovely cafe, at the weekend, and enjoying breakfast. I also happen to think their coffee is the best.

However, if you would have put cake, I definitely would have said The Bake House in Letchworth. In my opinion, there is no better cake than their ginger cake.

We are ridiculously lucky to have the Broadway Cinema in Letchworth. I absolutely love this cinema, although I most frequently go there now for the kids £1.75 cinema at the weekend, however, their events showcase is brilliant and diverse.

D is for....

The other thing you might know about me, other than my coffee and cafe obsession is I love cheese. Again, another one that would have gone under the "C" section I have moved this to deli because I am also a fan of the other accoutrements that come in a deli.

Deli Dot Zero in Letchworth and The Little Deli, in Hitchin, are really fantastic. At the time of writing Deli Dot Zero is moving premises but I cannot wait for them to re-open.

Since I have two fur friends, they get a more regular haircut than me! The only place to take your dogs for the best haircut (and best smell when they return) is with Marie at Paws Boutique. She is based in Hitchin and my dogs always look great afterwards.

E is for....

My eldest daughter went to J. Oliver Radley in Buntingford for her eye test. They were so kind and knowledgeable and my daughter felt very comfortable with them.

Why can't I think of anything else for E?

F is for.....

I cannot wait to finish my facial acupuncture course (I should be offering treatments from November 2021). I really love working with skin and dermatological conditions. But my go-to for facials is Kathryn in Barton-Le-Clay at Skin Lab Boutique. Her space is heaven and her facials are magic.

Lucie runs Rooted Wild and as she says "consciously bringing flowers and the mind, body and soul together". I know flowers bring me lots of joy and her work is beautiful.

I also adore Lara from River Rose Designs. Her dried flower arrangements are so beautiful. She is an incredible talent, using dried flowers and I now have two of her masterpieces, with always an eye on more!

G is for....

There is something really pleasing about going to our local greengrocer and visually seeing all the fruit and veg choices.

We have Miss Green Fingers in Letchworth (which is also a vegan and vegetarian cafe).

There is also Seasons who have opened their first shop in Biggleswade. But they also deliver fabulous fruit and veg boxes!

For gifts, my absolute favourites are Treat Yo'Self in Hitchin and Basket & Bee in Letchworth.

Treat Yo Self has gifts that I want to keep for myself and you can find something for everyone.

Basket & Bee create gorgeous hampers, so get in touch with Freda and I know she will be able to help you.

H is for....

My once a year haircut and colour can only be done by The Colour Room in Letchworth. The people who work there are pure genius with hair.

I obviously don't often stay in hotels in Hertfordshire, but if I was going to treat myself to a hideaway (from my children) then I would go to Bethnal and Bec in Cottered. Their self-catering accommodation is quintessentially decadent (and dog-friendly).

I is for.....

I really struggled with the word for "I". But I think imagination sums up these two local businesses superbly.

The Mill House in Hertford is a space for creating. The venue can be used for hire for photography, workshops and design. They have recently started the Wonder Den which is a creative space for young people, and they host a brilliant and wide range of workshops, for example, macrame, tie-dye and costume design.

The Letchworth Settlement, in Letchworth, has an immense calendar of events, courses and workshops from arts and crafts, languages, fitness, arts clubs and theatre groups.

J is for.....

I can highly recommend Hannah from Robin Rose Jewellery. Hannah is based in Stevenage and I contacted her at the beginning of the year for custom earrings. Her work surpassed anything I could have imagined and I love all of her jewellery.

We recently had a new front door made by Waterhall Joinery. Their work is meticulous, professional and beautiful. They are based in Whitwell.

K is for....

I'll admit I don't have personal experience of using Wentworth, who is based in Letchworth, but when I want a new kitchen they would be my first port of call.

Or if you think food, when I say kitchen then why don't you try Bite Around The World, Pings Kitchen or RNS Meals?

Bite Around the World, based in Hertfordshire, create grazing tables and platters. I have used them a couple of times; once for a birthday breakfast and one for a lunch with friends. Their food is delicious and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

I have not yet had a chance to try Pings Kitchen, which is in Hitchin. They were offering the most delicious meals, that you would just need to reheat, delivered straight to your door. This looks like restaurant-quality food that is nutritionally rich and easy for time-strapped people. I don't think it is currently running, but keep an eye on their socials. I think they make their own pickles which they sell.

Again, RNS Meals is not one I have used yet. My brother has friends who have used it and really enjoyed the convenience and healthy eating. You select your meal plan, they make it and then deliver straight to your door. They are based in Hitchin and all the food is made by them.

L is for.....

I have taken my children to some of our local museums to learn about Hertfordshire history. It is a really interesting insight into how our towns grew. What made them special or popular. Who the famous faces were. I highly recommend any of the local museums, but you can try:

North Herts Museum: based in Hitchin we have just been to the exhibition of the "Tiger Who Came To Tea" and went around the museum learning about how North Hertfordshire has changed. We learnt why wool was important and how people lived and worked.

Stockwood Discovery Centre: based just outside Luton there are different areas (including beautiful gardens) and they focus on different aspects. They also have events and the local history of Bedfordshire.

The Henry Moore Studios and Garden: the Henry Moore gardens are in Perry Green and are a space to showcase Henry Moore's work and where he lived. I am not an art connoisseur but the pieces were quite fascinating (and large)!

M is for....

Nic Kevans, who is based in Shillington and her massage was simply extraordinary. I highly recommend her for making everything right with the world. She also offers sound baths, sound massage and pregnancy massage.

An alternative (and also excellent massage) was at Wild Minds (formerly Haelan Therapy) in Hitchin. I had a shiatsu massage, but they offer lots of different massages and treatments.

N is for....

It was brilliant to see the opening of Cloud Nine, in Hitchin, for all your baby goods and needs. There are toys, slings, prams, pregnancy pillows. Absolutely everything you could need from positive test to baby being earthside and in their nursery.

In terms of my favourite garden nursery, I love:

Bickerdikes: I love Bickerdikes, in Letchworth, for the full garden centre experience. Plants and flowers (indoors and outdoors) plus equipment, goats, cafe and gifts section.

Growing Strong: is more a typical plant nursery. Just plants. But really good ones. They are just outside Hitchin, in Holwell.

Savins Nursery: is just a little further along. Again, another plant nursery, in Stondon.

O is for....

In my opinion, the Letchworth open-air pool is fabulous. It maintains an art deco-esque feel with just having the most glorious outside space to hang out between swims. They have a toddler pool and a large swimming pool. Oh and ice cream.

P is for....

There are lots of photographers to choose from in our lovely county.

But there is only one photographer for me. Erica Hawkins is a wedding photographer, but also is adding branding photos to her repertoire. She captures moments in a way that are magical.

Q is for....

Q. Q what word can I use for Q?

But if I need a quiet space the library is where you will find me. I really enjoy finding myself in the Letchworth Library. I think they have created a space that old and young can enjoy, but when I was writing assignments it was the perfect place for me.

I also find Hitchin cemetery a perfect space for quiet and reflection.

R is for....

So many choices for this category. My go-to local retail therapy will always be Riot Lounge in Hitchin. This is a shop for clothes I love. Gifts I would want to receive. Cards I want to give to people because they are so funny.

For refill, we have two local and brilliant shops. Wholesome Weigh, in Hitchin and Bamboo Turtle in Letchworth. Both shops are committed to being plastic-free and providing lots of great choices when it comes to food, cleaning products and bathroom accessories.

Again, we have loads of choices when it comes to re-using. Depop saw a 200% increase in traffic during 2020. George at Asda is now selling second-hand clothes and eBay saw a 1,211% increase in sales of pre-worn items.

The importance of buying second-hand is huge. For landfills. For the environment. For workers rights, so here are five excellent shops in Hertfordshire, who are all about the preloved items.

Jolly Brown Vintage: Hannah has recently moved around the corner from her previous shop, in Hitchin, and this space is a haven of vintage, ethical and affordable goodies from clothes to accessories to home wear. They have a kids section too.

Pre Loved Project.6: sisters Sophie and Carly have pre-loved clothing (adults and children's) shop which can be found above Bamboo Turtle in Letchworth, however, they will be imminently moving everything online.

Magpie Amore: a vintage shop in Hertford focused on sustainability, Magpie Amore can be found in Hertford. They have an amazing range of clothes (definitely got my eye on all the wool wear) with lots of vintage home wear pieces as well.

Re Ware: a shop in Ware for those who are seeking designer second-hand goodies. This is one I am yet to visit but my best friend told me it really was excellent.

The Shining City of Wardrobe: a space in Hitchin where you can make some money from your old clothes. You pay £1 for a hangar for 1 month and then get 60% of the sale. They always have a cornucopia of clothes for you to find something new (to you).

S is for....

Nortonbury Spa is a space where you can hire out their spa. I went recently with three friends, for the day, and it was wonderful. You have your own private space with a pool, kitchen, sauna, steam room, hot tub and gymnasium. You can also get a therapist to come in for treatments.

I saw on their socials, last week, that 2021 is almost full. So get booking for 2022. It really is worth it.

T is for....

Ooooh those giddy days of being in a room full of other people. I obviously haven't been to the theatre since 2019 but we have some brilliant theatres in Hertfordshire.

South Mill Arts in Bishops Stortford has a brilliant lineup of shows and their past Christmas pantomime performances have been hilarious. Rapunzel is this years pantomime and I will be booking tickets, definitely.

Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage is a huge venue with big productions including music, theatre and comedy. We went and watched a children's theatre production and it was excellent.

Hertford Theatre is currently going through a huge regeneration. The works will mean that they can screen first release cinema, a brand new studio auditorium for smaller live acts and performances, a plaza-style foyer with riverside café-bar and increased main auditorium space for larger productions.

Also, Broadway Cinema hosts theatre productions, but don't have anything on at the moment. For obvious reasons.

U is for....

Do you know those shops which just have everything? Even things you didn't know you needed?

Well, that is Brookers in Hitchin for me. Paint, doormats, kettle, stamps, bird feeders, decorative plates.

There really is something for everyone.

V is for....

Our fabulous Vutie Beets tops the list for vegan restaurants in Hertfordshire, for me. Not only do Harry and the team create amazing food and drinks but they are also huge champions of our community, supporting people in the pandemic and doing clean-ups of our neighbourhood.

Chia Naturally Healthy in Hitchin is another fabulous vegan restaurant. Again, beautiful plant-based food and drinks and in a beautiful spot right in the centre of Hitchin.

If you would like a purely vegetarian supermarket then Fairhaven in Letchworth is a must-visit. It is a hidden gem on an industrial estate (and lots of free parking) and has everything from skincare to supplements to frozen foods. All vegetarian or vegan and environmentally friendly.

W is for....

Having two dogs, I am always on the lookout for brilliant new walks; and Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire do not disappoint. I am currently writing a blog post about my top local walks but here is a quick summary below:

Chicksands: I love the woods in Chicksands. The tall trees provide such a tranquil space to walk through (unless you inadvertently end up in with the bike tracks). Nearby there is also Campton Plantation with its fantastic sculpture trail.

Pegsdon Hills: just outside of Hitchin is this area of (to Hertfordshire standards) mountains of rolling greenery.

Northill: if you drive up the A1 past Biggleswade you will find the beautiful villages of Northill and Southill. You can pick up the Greensand Ridge Walk and there is the most beautiful house to spy along the route.

Therfield Heath: you can make this walk as big or as small as you like. I picked up the Hertfordshire Way and walked back to Letchworth.

I have just written a blog post about these five amazing wellness spaces we have in Hertfordshire.

The Hay Barn in Therfield, Royston

Akasha Wellness in Bishops Stortford and Ware

Cucumber Fields in Essendon

Birch in Cheshunt

X is for....

Honestly, by the time I got to X, I wondered on what on earth had possessed me to write this A-Z!

So bear with me on this one!

Now, unfortunately, I have not been able to get to Agent Brains, yet. But a friend went recently and said it was huge amounts of fun and eXciting. They are escape rooms and I am expecting something like the Crystal Maze!

They are based in Letchworth, so I will definitely be giving them a visit.

Y is for....

The gorgeous Carly from Zen Flow Yoga is currently on maternity leave. She is based in Letchworth and is my go-to yoga instructor and she is also training to be a yoga therapist. Even though I cannot practice with Carly at the moment, she has an "at home" monthly package which you can do as and when you wish!

There is also the brilliant We Do Yoga studio in Letchworth. Aminta and her team offer yoga, pilates and meditation. They also have a shop for all your yoga equipment and a juice bar.

Z is for.....

And well Z. Z is of course for the zoo. Because what else could Z have been?

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire actually have quite a lot of zoos and zoo-like spaces (let us call that soft play). I have been to most of these, well because I have children.

I have deliberately chosen to not add the bigger zoos but stick with two smaller spaces. Although I know all need support right now.

Shepreth Wildlife Park in Shepreth, near Royston

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