Frances Button takes a tour of local independent traders that have re-opened following lockdown
Local independent businesses are facing major challenges, first caused by the pandemic lockdown and now by consumer anxiety. So how can they adapt and find ways to attract new custom?
Holtwhites Bakery in Chase Side is providing delivery and click-and-collect services, while narrowing its range and organising two shifts of staff each day, closing for a clean at lunchtime. Its reputation as an artisan bakery has not diminished and careful organisation of social distancing in the shop has re-assured regulars. Previously successful taster evenings are no longer viable for Holtwhites, but there are still plenty of local outlets for their goods.
Among them is EN_Food at the Dugdale Centre, which offers fabulous food with locally-sourced ingredients. Chef Ben Murphy had no sooner got his smaller café at Enfield Town Library underway than it was forced to close, but now the Dugdale is open again it is a great place for a breakfast burrito after a dog walk in Enfield Town Park!
It has been a challenging journey for Masterchef finalist Chris Georgiou at Gastronomical Burgers. Having started as a pop-up restaurant at Ferny Hill (open Thursday–Saturday evenings) six years ago, he feels the next six months will be difficult for the hospitality industry. Unfortunately, his business does not benefit from the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ government scheme because of limited opening hours and the loss of clientele has made a real impact. He has seen a 25% drop from the days before lockdown, when he was serving 50 people a day. Delivery is not an option, so the family team have started from scratch with a reduced menu and using a larger space.
Chris’s passion for food and cooking, and his determination to support local suppliers, remain undiminished, but he is fearful of the future. He told me: “Independent restaurants will use good independent butchers, bakers and farms to supply their menus, but if those restaurants do not survive there will be a knock-on effect.”
Forty Hall Farm is one of those independent suppliers. Angelika Hauses, its manager, told me she has seen the farm shop “flourish” as people choose to buy organic raw ingredients. Orders for Enfield Veg Co’s fresh deliveries, selling food grown at Forty Hall, have outstripped supply – there is even a waiting list to sign up.
Boho Flo is a bohemian arts and crafts homeware shop in Lancaster Road. It had only opened in November and had just got into its stride when Covid-19 hit. Nikki, the owner, ran crafting workshops at the back of the shop around a long kitchen table – macramé and wreath making, for example – but had to close despite having bookings until May.
Nikki told me she used her spare time in lockdown to make stock for her store and get organised for re-opening, as well as running open-air workshops in Hillyfields. The latter proved very successful, given how many children needed entertaining! When she did re-open the shop, her displays of bowls and baskets of succulents attracted attention, and she has found things have slowly improved. Nikki is now looking forward to organising a festival in Lancaster Road in the future, selling art by local artists, and is also expecting a “bumper” Christmas.
Talking with these committed and caring local business people shows just how dedicated they are to their local clientele, the quality of their product, and to their community; the future will be challenging, but the more we all shop locally the more likely it is that they will survive.