04 Jul St Agnes Parish businesses get ready to safely welcome visitors back
The St Agnes Parish community have pulled together during the COVID-19 crisis, to support one another and their Parish businesses over the last few months.
As with much of the Cornish business community, many of those within the Parish are hugely dependent on the tourism trade. Even many of those that weren’t closed by Government lockdown have found themselves negatively impacted over the last three months.
But they have all stayed busy. Whether it was building Tiki Huts to serve takeaways, making and delivering boxes of veg or boxes of pasties or staying open so that people could still grab a pint of milk, many businesses have found ways to keep going.
Other business owners have had to remain closed due to Government guidelines but have used the time to overhaul how they operate their businesses and get everything prepared for reopening today, the 4th July.
Kelly Cooper of St Agnes Chamber of Commerce, comments, “The amount of work that has gone into reopening is incredible. Shops have put queuing systems into place, changed layouts and created takeaway counters.
“Like businesses across the UK, pubs, restaurants and accommodation providers have had to reconfigure their entire business model to understand how they can reopen safely. Everyone has worked so hard to make sure that everything is as safe as possible for customers, staff and the community.”
Adapting their businesses
For businesses that have been able to reopen over the last few weeks, adapting has been key. The Sorting Office is a coffee shop in the heart of Churchtown, St Agnes. Due to the size of the shop, they are remaining takeaway only for the foreseeable future but have branched out into selling local flowers and Da Bara Bakery bread in addition to coffees, smoothies and cakes.
Owner Sophie Gaisford says, “We have carried out a risk assessment and the main concern is contamination between staff members. At the moment we are able to operate with one member of staff working at a time however the busier it gets we may have to have another member of staff to reduce queuing times. We offer hand sanitiser to all customers and have a table to place the coffees on in order for the customer to collect their items at a safe distance.”
For pubs, restaurants and accommodation providers, there has been a long wait to see when and how they might be able to reopen. Now that the 4th July is here, they have the green light to take their plans forward.
Louise Treseder of The Driftwood Spars Pub & B&B says, “Over the past few weeks we have been busy writing our Covid-19 risk assessment to ensure that we can open safely without putting staff, customers and the local community at risk. We have a six stage reopening plan. We have already opened the Crib Shack for takeaway in stage one, and are looking forward to opening the beer garden, which is now in our car park, on 4th July.
She continues, “The final stage will be opening our main bar which is the heart and soul of the business, but I couldn’t face ruining it with Perspex screens – that would break my heart, so we have taken the decision not to open it until a time when we can all gather in confined spaces and drink, laugh & cry together – I hope this isn’t too far away.”
The St Agnes Chamber of Commerce has been busy organising Zoom calls and sharing information amongst local businesses to ensure that everyone is up-to-date on compliance and official guidance. They’ve also been working with Helping Hands St Agnes on leaflets that can be emailed to guests pre-arrival to understand how different aspects of staying within the Parish are working. Thinking about how visitors get around while in the area, they’ve also developed an App in place of their usual guidebook of the Parish.
Cooper comments, “At times it has felt like a huge responsibility for business owners. They have staff reliant on them, have overheads that still need to be paid, and it has taken a while to hear how they can move forward. A number of businesses didn’t receive any funding from Government initiatives so we at the Chamber have been trying to support them in a practical way at a particularly worrying time.
“The wider community have been incredible in supporting businesses in every way that they can – they understand that if businesses disappear due to this crisis, we will be a much poorer Parish for it. The Chamber members wanted to set up a Hardship Fund for those struggling in the community and the response has been phenomenal – we’ve raised over £4,000 in the last few months!”
Over the time that businesses have been closed, one of the things many owners have really missed is their customers! Sophie Gaisford of The Sorting Office comments, “We have now been reopen for 3 weeks and have loved chatting with the public and reconnecting with customers. We’ve loved hearing what people have been getting up to at home during lockdown and how much people have missed their coffees!
“It’s been overwhelming how excited people have been to get a coffee and pastry in the mornings on their daily walk – bringing a little piece of normality back in to their days! It’s been surprisingly busy and I think people are generally adapting to the new normal very well.”
Some businesses are taking their time to reopen when they feel that they are confident to do so and have been able to continue their businesses in a different direction.
Annie Lucas of ‘Start to Stitch’ was providing sewing classes prior to lockdown and has not only organised the sewing of thousands of sets of scrubs and masks for local healthcare providers through Cornwall Scrubs, she has also started filming her classes to take them online.
Jo Polack’s Studio Gallery in Peterville is still currently closed to the public, but Jo is still very much working! She says, “I am still very much ‘in business’ and trying to be as creative as possible with continuing to fulfil wishes of customers. I have been, and will continue, to get quite a lot of my artwork out to people who are contacting me through phone, email, Facebook and other social media.”
Now that the 4th July has arrived, businesses are confident that they are ready but ask that both the local community and visitors are patient as they find their feet in these unprecedented times.
“Whilst the last three months have been incredibly hard, the overwhelming response from businesses is that they want their staff, visitors and the community to feel reassured that they are doing everything possible to stay safe and are looking forward to welcoming people back to our beautiful Parish”, Cooper said.