Local businesses need our support
By Keri Beckingham
TRADERS in Westbury have spoken out over the need for people to support local businesses after the coronavirus lockdown.
During Shop Local Week last month, Henleaze and Westbury Voice spoke to several business owners in Westbury village to find out how things are going post-lockdown.
Tiriel Lovejoy owns Preserve Foods on Westbury Hill, which has been open since the middle of July. The store is Tiriel’s third zero waste shop in Bristol, following ones on Gloucester Road and Redfield, selling items by weight and avoiding packaging where possible.
The shop’s reputation has travelled far already, being featured in a recent article in the New York Times about the UK’s economic recovery starting in suburbs rather than cities.
Tiriel said: “I was about to sign the lease on the new shop on March 20, which was the same time as lockdown started. A lot of businesses put their expansion plans on hold, but I decided to take the gamble in the hope that Covid would be temporary and our plans would be more permanent.
“We got the keys at the end of May, and it took about seven weeks to get the shop ready to open once some of the lockdown restrictions had eased. Unfortunately we couldn’t have a big opening party, but the feedback from customers so far has been really positive.
“It was amazing for our little shop to get recognition in the New York Times article and we’ve even had customers off the back of it too, with one resident being told about us by her Dad who actually lives in New York!
“It has been a very quiet period for us due to Covid and it being the middle of summer, but hopefully in future once more people know more about us things will get better.
"I think it’s important for people to shop local as it helps to keep money circulating locally, and it gives a nice feeling to know people personally and that we’re all helping each other out.”
Amanda George owns We Make Bristol in Westbury village. She says that although she has received fantastic support from customers since reopening on June 15, she is concerned whether her business would survive a second lockdown.
“I can’t speak for others but being closed during lockdown meant I took a massive hit financially, and I think it’s important that people shop local as if they don’t shops like mine will go out of business,” said Amanda.
“One lady came in recently who also owns a small business, and she said that although she doesn’t need anything she wanted to buy something to support another small local independent. Another lady bought a card from me, and said she was working her way round the village buying one small thing from each business which was lovely.
“I’ve been a lot quieter than I would normally be at this time of year, and although parking has always been a problem in the village, now that the council have barriers up I think this has made things worse as there are now even less parking spaces available.
“I think some people are still nervous about going out too and aren’t comfortable about shopping at the moment, and I think it’s important to stress that people should do whatever is right for them.
"I’m also in the process of putting We Make Bristol online, so that we can cater for everyone.”
WH Mogford & Sons hardware shop has been open in the village since the 1860s. Owned by Paul Gillam since 2004, it is one of oldest shops in Bristol, and his daughter Sophie thinks the shop’s history makes it a key part of the village.
She said: “We were allowed to stay open during lockdown as we sell hardware and pet supplies. During April we were completely flat out the whole time, and made 350 deliveries to people who were completely isolating, so it was hectic. It was a really busy time for us, especially as B&Q were closed, but we have certainly got quieter since they reopened.
“Being a local family business, our customers are basically supporting us as a family to live. When we were at our busiest point we had lots of great feedback from customers, but some people we have not seen since. We were going to our suppliers every day to get special orders in for people, and we do try and go above and beyond for our customers, and if they support us then we will do everything we can to support them. Giving a personal service is really important to us.”
Stoke Lane Cards and Gifts were able to stay open during lockdown as they started selling cleaning products, toilet roll and food stuffs. Commenting on their experiences, Mike Rodway said: “The government grant in April has been a great help to us, and we have noticed that footfall is starting to improve now the restrictions have been eased. Some people that have been sheltering have made a re-appearance, and we know some people have been nervous about shopping, but we hope that by knowing shop keepers such as us, it will help to improve their confidence.
“People can’t just browse and spend lots of time in shops any more as they are worried about other people. I think as independents we have quite an important role in helping customers through this, and it has been really nice to see them again. It’s a difficult time for us all, but I think this is just the new norm.”