Pop-up shops and tea room huts: How businesses have been forced to adapt to pandemic

Three businesses. Three experiences of lockdown. And all three an example of triumph out of enormous adversity.

Kaye and Richard Le Page with their daughter Lucy next to one of the forest huts at Springslade Lodge, Cannock Chase.
Kaye and Richard Le Page with their daughter Lucy next to one of the forest huts at Springslade Lodge, Cannock Chase.

The last year has been traumatic in many ways and we have all changed the way we have lived.

For small businesses it has been a case of adapting in order to survive. And for many, they will eventually come out stronger.

The pop-up shop

It proved a lifeline during the pandemic – and is now here to stay.

Blymhill Village Pop Up Community Shop, inside the Blymhill & Weston Under Lizard Village Hall, was set up during lockdown to offer local people a place where they could get their essentials without needing to travel to bigger supermarkets.

It’s been so successful that organisers operating in the community close to the Staffordshire-Shropshire border have decided to keep it open despite lockdown restrictions easing.

David Maddocks, chairman of the Blymhill and Weston Under Lizard Parish Council, said: “The idea of a local shop within the parish was first discussed three years ago at parish council level and has been in discussions since.

A lockdown community pop-up shop at Blymhill Village Hall is staying open

“When the first lockdown was introduced and our village hall was left empty, it was suggested we set up a pop-up shop there to trial it. The idea being that it would not only help local people who didn’t feel comfortable travelling into town but that would also support local producers and suppliers who were struggling for business during the pandemic.

“We were absolutely delighted with the response. The feedback has been fantastic. So much so that we’ve decided even with restrictions easing that it needs to stay open.”

The community shop sells fresh fruit and vegetables, locally-made bread as well as specialist sausage rolls, and most of the products are made within the parish.

Mr Maddocks paid tribute to the ‘wonderful volunteers’.

He said: “There were lots of people involved behind-the-scenes who made this happen. The enthusiasm and commitment to the whole project has been incredible – the community spirit has gone far beyond our expectations.”

Tea room huts

Owners of Springslade Lodge tea rooms and caravan and camp site in Staffordshire have built nine purpose-built huts in the garden area to ensure customers feel comfortable when eating out.

The Cannock Chase huts, which seat between six and eight people and can also accommodate people’s pets, have been painted in different shades of green to reflect the forest setting.

The huts will be a permanent fixture, reflecting the public’s increased awareness of space and safety even after lockdown.

Kaye Le Page, aged 56, and husband, Richard, aged 59, started the business in September 2000 and this year celebrate their 21st in the business.

Kaye said: “We have carried out the refurbishment of the tea rooms, garden area and constructed the huts with Government grants of about £10,000 and £20,000 of our own money.

"The huts allow people to enjoy food and drink without having to go into the tea room so that people feel more confident about coming out to eat following the Covid lockdowns.

"We sanitise the huts between customers and painted them in sea green, sage green and forest green colours to reflect our business in a forest setting covering three acres.

“Customers have said they really like the idea but we do ask people to book the huts and to pay a £10 deposit which is deducted from their bill. We have had to do this to ensure people turn up and other people are not disappointed or have to wait.

"Everything we serve is home-baked and at normal times we can have 300 to 500 customers at weekends and between 50 and 100 on weekdays.”

Camper van butties

A VW camper van has helped Dukes Coffee House & Eatery to keep going during the pandemic.

And it has now become a regular haunt for locals who have got into a habit of picking up a bacon, avocado and sweet chilli roll on a weekend.

Manager Bree Ashworth said the work of the cafe on Mount Road, Penn, hadn’t changed, but they had had to adapt their services because of the restrictions in place.

She said: “We had to make a change from having customers sitting inside and lots of people passing through to becoming a takeaway when the first lockdown happened last March. The owner Charlie and I have enjoyed making it work and adapting to the changes to continue offering a service.

Charlie Taylor, owner of Duke’s Cafe, selling breakfasts from a van outside the shop

“That’s included the takeaway service, afternoon tea boxes, pop up nights and the burger van we have, so we’ve been able to put on a lot of services.”

The cafe has enjoyed a good relationship with the community and has seen a lot of regular faces coming up to order a hot drink from the shop or buy a hot snack from the converted VW camper van parked outside.

Ms Ashworth said the cafe had noticed a change in how some customers came to the shop compared to before the first lockdown.

She said: “We sell a lot more coffee and hot drinks as people come over while they’re working from home for their daily walk, whereas we’d have a lot more people coming in and having a chat before lockdown.

“There’s more people coming and going during the day, but it’s been good as we’ve built up really good customer relationships during this time. I think people see this place as a little haven to go and have a chat and a coffee.

“Coffee and cake are essential to a lot of lives, so we’ve been providing a service pretty much all the way through.

“We’ve had a lot of new people come, as well as a good number of our regulars.”

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