Jo's Baguette Bar, housed by Halesowen's own Cornbow Centre, initially opened in 2015 after owner Joanne Pulford decided to put her own unique twist on serving freshly-made, bespoke food to customers.

The location has become a premier destination for locals and visitors to grab themselves high-quality food such as wraps, sandwiches, baguettes and even authentic baked potatoes.

Halesowen has long been considered a "hidden gem" of trade and business activity within the Dudley Borough and Joanne was able to offer aspiring business owners some sage words of advice when it comes to how to successfully operate, as well as some insight and opinions regarding Halesowen's approach to commerce.

I think that Halesowen needs to attract some bigger retail outlets . . . 

- Joanne Pulford

The food bar owner gave an incredibly honest and open assessment when discussing Halesowen's business presence in comparison to other locations, along with mentioning Halesowen's untapped potential to draw in much younger customers, stating: "Losing Wilko's was a blow to the town, and it needs somebody to bring in some of the familiar high street names, a Sports shop would be great as there is a big student population due to the schools and colleges nearby. A big fashion name would also be good as it would hopefully bring people to Halesowen rather than Merry Hill, there are a lot of young shoppers in town but very little to attract them." 

The mass closure of recently acquired Wilko’s branches has, in the minds of many, played a big role in slowing down market activity in the retail scene, even outside of smaller towns.

Joanne was also vocal when describing the advantages she believes being situated in the Cornbow Centre, a local hot-spot for small and large businesses alike, provides her with, claiming: "I think operating from inside the centre is a benefit as my shop is located opposite ASDA and next to Poundland and the Library, so I'm in a good position to be seen by passing shoppers."

Jo's Baguette Bar is established at the very top of the Cornbow Centre and is the first store often seen when heading to the top floor and when exiting the upper area of ASDA.

Pulford also said regarding the usage of the Cornbow Centre's facilities: "There are quite a lot of empty units outside the Cornbow and I think it would be more difficult to generate business from there. The Cornbow has just come under new ownership so hopefully the change will bring new retailers to the town and more shoppers, some big-name high-street outlets would be very good."

How can local businesses thrive? What keeps people coming back?

Pulford also gave her thoughts and opinions on how business owners can maintain their establishment and why she thinks people keep coming back to her own, stating: "I have had the shop open now for more than eight years so I have built my customer base gradually, if you are going to open your own sole trader business be very aware that the first two to three years will be hard and you won't be making big profits, breaking even is good."

She then followed up with: "I believe my success is built on high quality bespoke products and first-class customer service, we make everything fresh in the shop and all our baguettes are made to order in front of the customer, no pre-packed sandwiches.

You need to engage with your customers and get to know them and listen to what they are saying as it will give you lots of clues as to what will be a good seller. Don't be afraid to try new things . . . be friendly, be polite, be professional, have fun and have a smile on your face!"