When Laurie and Fran Black bought London Pride last fall, expatriates from the United Kingdom began flocking to the shop. They came for the flavors of their homeland, said Fran Black. Things like Cornish pasties (a type of meat pie originally a lunch food for miners in Cornwall), bacon and bangers (sausage), Yorkshire pudding, Typhoo and PG Tips tea, Cadbury Flakes and Crunchies, dark beers and other imported groceries. There is even a corner for curry goods. In addition to imported foods and beverages, the shop's gifts include mugs, tea and bar towels, T-shirts, baseball and golf caps, license plates, parking signs and movies. The Blacks are well acquainted with the tastes of the U.K.
Laurie Black is a native of Reigate, England, and Fran is a native of St. Andrews, Scotland. The couple owned and operated a restaurant in Ayr, Scotland, for 33 years. "It began as a French-Italian bistro," said Fran Black. "In the end, it was more French and modern British."
Their son, Toby, left home six years ago at age 16 to play ice hockey in Canada and the United States. He fell in love with America and the Blacks decided to emigrate, leaving their daughter Emily in Scotland to finish her university studies.
The couple settled in Tampa three years ago, buying a restaurant and a home on Davis Islands. After two years, they wanted to get into a different type of business and sold the restaurant.
While searching for a new venture, Laurie Black found London Pride on the Internet. Owners Gerry and Krysia Goodwin wanted to sell so they could retire.
Fran Black runs the shop most days while her husband sees to the couple's other two businesses — a real estate advertising magazine, Digest of Homes, and Fun Quick Travel, an Internet travel agency. We asked Fran Black about the business.
Why do you think your shop is doing such a brisk business?
We expanded and have more beer, more frozen foods, more tea, more of everything. Every time I order, I get a few more different things. I just finished the Christmas order for puddings and other holiday foods.
There used to be more shops like this one — in St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Hudson. All are closed now and we're getting some of those customers.
Why is Indian food so popular with the Brits?
It's part of our history. It goes back to the (nearly 300) years that India was a British colony. Indian food is very popular throughout the U.K., more so than fish and chips. There are many Indians and Pakistanis living in England.
Do you plan to expand the business?
Yes, we're planning to start delivering to people in the area. We'll deliver everything from frozen food to gifts.
What do you like best about the business?
I love meeting the people that come in. Everyone wants to stay and chat. Some things they find here they haven't seen for years, like candy they remember from their childhood. Americans come in because they are interested in their roots or they want to buy some food or candy they enjoyed on holiday in the U.K.