Standing in a layby selling potatoes in the rain, it’s safe to say that Stuart Gooderham’s career in retail didn’t have the most glamorous of starts.

But he’s a man who wasn't going to let a bit of bad weather dampen his entrepreneurial spirit.

Stuart spotted that one of the buildings on his family’s farm had the potential to be turned into a shop.

Today Goodies Food Hall is an award-winning gourmet destination, famed for its breakfasts – and celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend.

When Stuart left school, he followed in his father’s footsteps by going to work on the family farm at Pulham.

Looking for ways to earn some extra money, his father suggested that Stuart started selling their potatoes from a layby on the A140.

“That’s when potato prices were really rock bottom, so father said look, you go down the layby off the main road and I’ll give you 50p a bag,” says Stuart. “I used to go down on a Saturday and Sunday and sell a trailer loads each day.”

Soon local suppliers started getting in touch – and he started sourcing the products that his customers were telling him that they wanted.

“Then we were approached by the strawberry people at Alburgh, on the other side of Hempnall and I then sold strawberries and new potatoes and asparagus,” he says.

Due to customer demand, Stuart, who was one of the founders of Diss Farmers’ Market, added a refrigerated unit to his trailer and started selling butchered pork.

Then a plan started forming to turn one of the buildings on the farm into a shop and make it into a destination for foodies.

“I was out in all weathers, and I used to sit in the trailer looking at the building on our farm opposite and thinking about what I would do with it,” says Stuart.

And in 2002, he and his wife, Kim, opened Goodies Food Hall.

Packed with what it says on the tin, as it has grown over the last two decades, it has put south Norfolk firmly on the foodie map.

“When we first started, we had a small range,” says Stuart. “Now we’ve got I don’t know how many suppliers in there. We try to keep as local as we can and we try and buy the best you can get. And we employ 45 people.”

Fruit and vegetables are sourced from McCarthy’s. And they have an on-site butchery – for the last 20 years Bramfield Meats has been their supplier - and bakery.

“We make all our own pies and sausage rolls, which are a best-seller - and all our own cakes. The only thing we don’t do ourselves at the moment is bread, but that is one for the future,” says Stuart.

Preserves come from Norfolk Garden, Chillis Galore, Candi’s, Tiptree and more.

On the cheese counter you’ll find local favourites, including Mrs Temple’s, Baron Bigod and Fielding Cottage’s Norfolk Mardler goat’s cheese.

And you can stock up your drinks cabinet with the likes of Black Shuck gin and English whiskies made at St George’s Distillery at Roudham.

A year or so after opening, Goodies started offering food to eat in – again initially on a small scale, offering coffees and sandwiches.

And as the restaurant has expanded, they’ve become well-known for their super-local signature breakfast.

“I don’t think there are many other places you can come and get a breakfast where the sausages have been made in the [on-site] butcher’s, the bacon has been cured in the butcher’s, we get our eggs from Eye, we get our mushrooms from Flordon, which is two and a half miles away and when tomatoes are in season, we get those as locally as we can,” says Stuart.

During Covid, they built an uber-stylish new restaurant, taking the number of covers from 70 to 130 and their Sunday roast with all the trimmings has also built up a dedicated following.

Every six weeks or so they have an evening service with a special themed menu. On Friday, November 4, they’re holding a special 20th anniversary celebration dinner and there are Christmas party nights scheduled for December.

“We’ve got some very, very good chefs and they like to be creative,” says Stuart, adding that their menus are led by the produce that's in season - and that they keep food waste to a minimum.

He also pays tribute to the staff who went above and beyond to get supplies to their local community during the coronavirus lockdowns.

“The shop was so, so busy and we were delivering as well,” says Stuart. “I think everybody excelled through that spell. We did everything we could to get food to them, we were working day and night and the guys in the shop were amazing.”

As well as marking their 20th anniversary, Christmas is getting underway at Goodies Food Hall, with shoppers already snapping up tempting festive treats such as stollen, Christmas puddings, cake and gift tins.

Stuart says that this year, with the squeeze on finances people are getting ahead earlier to spread the cost.

“Looking forward, we’ve just got to stay ahead of the game in the shop. As long as we keep on the ball all the while, so every last meal, every last sale we do is still top, you’re getting a good name for that, that’s the most important thing,” says Stuart whose son, Lewis, 25, has now joined the business too.

“We enjoy working together as a family,” he says.

“We’d like to do a plant centre, we’d like to do a gift shop at the back of the farm shop as well so we’re making this more of a destination. We’ve got a couple of old buildings there we might turn into cottages for holiday homes. We’ve got so many ideas,” he says.

Goodies Food Hall is just off the A140 at Pulham near Diss. Their Christmas lunches are available from December 1-23 and their festive afternoon tea will be served on December 15 and 22.

See or follow on Instagram @goodiesfoodhall.