The national lockdown has once again brought several restrictions for businesses across the country. Those such as hair salons and gyms have been forced to close, but other businesses can still operate – albeit under tighter restrictions.
In terms of retail, all businesses deemed by the Government to be “non-essential” such as clothing and hardware stores must close – unless they offer click-and-collect services or deliveries.
Essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences may remain open.
DevonLive spoke to some of our independent businesses to ask why they are still open and what their customers can expect from them under the new lockdown measures.
Nourish Topsham and Exeter
“It’s important to us that people are able to shop sustainably during this lockdown”
On first glance it may not be apparent why the store is remaining open; however, they offer a wide range of food including items such as dried foods, spices and a variety of flours, alongside non-edible items like shampoo and handwash.
Owner Sarah Martin explained: “Nourish sells predominantly foodstuff, so we are able to stay open as an essential shop.”
Sarah is also keen to reassure customers who might be nervous about visiting Nourish stores that they are taking Coronavirus guidance and restrictions seriously. “Because we are small, and limiting customers to two at a time in the shops on Topsham and Magdalen Road, we are able to ensure the very highest standards of cleanliness and sanitising”, she said.
“Our customers tell us that they feel that shopping in Nourish feels safe and stress-free.”
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Sarah is hoping that customers continue to feel this way and that they continue to shop locally. She said: “It would be amazing if people chose to shop in independent retailers, as we are quite literally depending on locals within walking distance for our survival.
“People can help by recommending us to their friends, writing a nice review on Google and sharing our social media posts.
“It’s important to us that people are able to shop sustainably during this lockdown, so we are determined to stay open.”
“I feel the hospitality industry has to fight against big business”
Earlier this year Tom Williams-Hawkes and his wife Amelia took the brave decision to launch SALT, a wet fish shop which can be found on the premises of The Salutation in Topsham.
Tom and Amelia are passionate about providing top-quality seafood, as Tom’s dad was a fisherman in Topsham for over 30 years and Amelia’s grandad was a fishmonger. Tom, has also been a chef for over 20 years, working in well-respected venues such as Michael Caine’s Gidleigh Park.
For him, staying open is about more than just being permitted to – it’s about helping to support the local community. “The fisherman need our support,” he said.
The shop is currently offering takeaway, including special ‘Salutation at Home’ kits which can be collected every Saturday and enable people to create a three-course meal at home using mostly local ingredients.
Tom said he feels the hospitality industry across the board has been “really responsible for its actions” throughout the Covid crisis and said that SALT is offering a “purely one-person in, one-person out” service. He’s also willing to service nervous customers through a specially allocated window if needs be.
Either way, he’s hoping people will continue to support them throughout lockdown, he said “I feel the hospitality industry has to fight against big business.
“Topsham has come together, and that’s been a massive positive. I think Topsham is going to get through this and we’re in a positive place.”
Country Cheeses, Tavistock, Totnes, Topsham
“We’re still Covid-safe, but we’ve got the smiling eyes”
These three artisan cheese shops are under husband and wife team Elise and Gary Jungheim. They have been in the industry for more than three decades and have previously been winners in the Great British Cheese awards.
Aside from wanting to keep the business going, the pair play a vital part in supporting local cheesemakers by selling their produce.
Currently, all three of their shops are up and running as per Government Coronavirus rules.
Gary said: “During the first lockdown we initially closed everything apart from the Topsham shop. We were trying to protect everyone then, but we soon realised we can protect people and enliven them – we’re still Covid-safe, but we’ve got the smiling eyes.”
He said he felt a sense of responsibility to those he deals with through the business – including their customers – but said he feels that local produce still needs to be of excellent quality. Gary said he’d never want to be providing produce “just for the sake of it.”
“With our stuff, it’s not wasteful”, he said. “They [customers] are really connecting with people all the way along the line – it’s a no-brainer, really.
“Over the 31 years we’ve been doing this, the number of people we’ve got to know has increased – 25 to 30 cheesemakers at least. These people are our friends too, so you want to do the best for them.”
He hopes that people will support the business by thinking of them over supermarkets and by understanding the positive impact of supporting the local traders.
Gary said: “I want people to realise that buying local doesn’t need to be really expensive – it’s a great thing to invest in. You’re doing the best for your community.
“A glass of wine and a bit of cheese, and we all feel better.”