Shop Local: Tools’n’bread kept some stores open—but not the little gift shop
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Some shops managed to pull through the Big Lockdown with barely a scratch, while other “non essentials” down Roman Road that had to shut have now recovered none-the-worse for wear.
Thompson’s hardware does DIY, pet food, gardening, tools, keys, nails and plumbing stuff, so it stayed open through lockdown as an essential trade.
The business has been in Annette Wakerley’s family since her granddad George Thompson opened it in 1952.
“An essential business like ours was allowed to stay open,” Annette explains.
“We do masks, gloves, goggles, sanitisers, soaps and disinfectant as well as the other stuff.”
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But it’s not all a bed of roses for the gardening and DIY store. Trade dropped because lockdown meant fewer customers were allowed in at any one time.
“Some deliveries are drying up,” Annette adds. “We haven’t had timber for six months because it’s not coming into the country. Paint is difficult to get.
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“Toilet roll sales went berserk — I’m holding my breath in case more shortages could be on the way.”
But the new ‘social distance’ measures at least keep her customers safe while they mooch around the one-way system through the aisles of hardware and pet food.
Another essential shop was the new Artisan Bakery at the other end of the market. It opened in March baking fresh Turkish bread every hour.
No sooner had it opened than the big Lockdown shut the market for weeks.
Shop manager Semra Polat recalled: “We just opened and suddenly everywhere closed. We are so unlucky.”
But local trade for bread never went away and they were able to stay open as essential trade. At least the dough has kept rolling into the till as well as on the baking table.
Opposite the hardware store is Snap, the little gift shop selling toys, jewellery and now even hand sanitiser.
It started getting more customers when office workers were sent home in March.
But Helen Fisher, 43, soon had to close because it wasn’t essential trade.
Now she’s back and managing quite well, thank you, even against online rivals like Moonpig.
She reopened after three months to find her lunchtime greetings card trade still “on the cards” from office people continuing to work from home who would normally be in The City.
“People like to browse,” Helen says. “They enjoy coming into a nice shop and making impulsive decisions.
“I connect to people and make friends. You can’t do that on Moonpig.”
And the sanitisers? Helen had to have sanitisers for customers to use, so she decided to sell them and add another string to the Bow gift shop’s bow.