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‘I want to see my customers’ faces’ - five market town businesses reveal how lockdown has affected them

PUBLISHED: 12:11 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:44 29 April 2020

Fakenham's Thursday market PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

Fakenham's Thursday market PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

Archant

Businesses have had to acclimatise to a world turned upside down during coronavirus lockdown.

The Fakenham Fayre organiser, Liam OSullivan. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodThe Fakenham Fayre organiser, Liam OSullivan. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

We spoke to five in the market town of Fakenham to see how they are coping, in their own words.

Owner of Fakenham’s Gallery Bistro, Liam O’Sullivan, 42, locked his doors five weeks ago. He has owned the sports bar on Market Place since 2002, and this is the longest it has ever been closed for.

“It’s been very tough. It has disrupted my life as I know it.

“There is a lot of uncertainty around my business because I have no idea when I can open it up again. With being in hospitality I imagine we will be one of the last to open. We cannot do anything until things go back to normal and we can reopen again.

Fakenham's Tiny's Taxis owner, Mark Griffin outside the store in Fakenham. Picture: ArchantFakenham's Tiny's Taxis owner, Mark Griffin outside the store in Fakenham. Picture: Archant

“But what will normal look like? The whole point of my bar is for people to socialise. Will we have to restructure the whole business until a vaccine is found. It is a really big problem.”

Mark Griffin, one of the owners at Tiny’s Taxi said that they are still running services, but with little over half of their 60 staff members working.

“There are a lot of hard-working, genuine guys who are now forced to sit at home until this is all over.

“There are not as many jobs as normal. We have large gaps in between. While this is happening, we are wiping down our taxis.

Owner of Sew Sweets, Fay Dewing. Picture ArchantOwner of Sew Sweets, Fay Dewing. Picture Archant

“It has put a lot of pressure on me as an owner. Luckily we are still getting support from the council with car insurance and office rent.

“We rely a lot on our evening trade from pubs and restaurants but now we are running people to work and hospital appointments,

“It seems to be very awkward in cars as well. People feel like they shouldn’t be there and they try to keep their distance.”

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Fay Dewing, 55, the owner of Sew Sweets, only took over Sweets n Things in the town seven weeks ago.

She runs the sweet shop, provides school uniforms, makes clothing alterations and runs the town’s info hub, but all of her business has disappeared.

“You have got to pick yourself up and get on with it. I’m now at home having moved my workroom there.”

“I check on the shop a couple of times a week, changing the display in the window so when people walk by they have something new to look at.

Marleen Rogers Chairperson of the Fakenham sports club assocation at The Gallow is looking forward to a brighter future after some financial problems. Picture: ArchantMarleen Rogers Chairperson of the Fakenham sports club assocation at The Gallow is looking forward to a brighter future after some financial problems. Picture: Archant

“I’m making plans for when we reopen. Children will need a uniform again. I’m a little bit frustrated but in my head, everyone’s the same, it’s not just me.

“It will be lovely when things get back to normal and to catch up with customers and make sure that they are alright.”

Andrew Felton, 35, owner of Drifters fish and chip shop in Fakenham has completely changed the dynamic of his business during the lock-down.

“I took the decision on 25 March to lock the doors. But I was flooded with messages. I even had an elderly woman on the phone in tears saying she wouldn’t have a hot meal without us.

“I had shut down for a week, but it was a very difficult week. I have reopened, offering a delivery service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“I want to move away from delivery once it is safe to do so, I want to see my customers’ faces.”

Marlene Rogers, chairperson of the Fakenham sports clubs association at The Gallows said the centre closed its doors on March 21.

“We have supported our customers with a scheme with local business, Grocott and Murfit, We provide meals to club members over 70.

“All the management, staff and the committee feel frustrated but resigned to the situation over which we have no control.

“We will be looking into all the available grants and help that are being organised to see if we are eligible but we don’t expect to ask our members for more support.”


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