Dunstable Family Businesses
Pandemic, lockdown, tiers and family businesses: a different world
The pandemic has had varying effects on different businesses over the past nine months. Fortnightly Dunstable Family Business articles, written by the Town Mayor, published next to the Dunstable Town Centre Manager’s reports in this paper, have explored how and when families started their businesses, the family members involved, how Covid-19 has affected them and how they view the future.
A number of market stallholders are also based around family members. Dunstable Town markets, one of the first to be reinstated after the first lockdown, have all been visited by the Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Peter Hollick and Ann Sparrow. They have been able to welcome many new stall holders who have been happy to return to later markets which reopened after the second lockdown on December 5th. Albeit rain fell on Sunday 13th December, the third day of the three day Christmas Magic market, stallholders told the Mayor that the Friday and Saturday markets had been successful. There are now more stalls than for many years at all the Town Markets thanks to the hard work of the Town Centre Manager, Annette Clynes.
There was only in effect a short respite for many businesses before the second lock down was announced. Beginning to find their feet, further uncertainty reared its head. Plans in the way many had tried to adapt their means of earning an income in the first lock down were dusted off and resuscitated. Central Bedfordshire (and consequently Dunstable) has been taken as part of geographical Bedfordshire which, of course, includes Luton and Bedford, where incidents of Covid-19 have been higher. In the South, we of course share the Luton and Dunstable Hospital. On 26th November we were put into Tier 2; a review took place on December 2nd; a further review was due on 16th December.
In general, there was positivity at the end of the first lockdown. However, this was some-what dented with the coming of the second lockdown and then with an unknown future into and beyond December.
Restaurants and other catering outlets such Chez Jerome and Lisa Roberts Catering, not previously offering take-aways, had to change their approach and started offering an order and collect or a home delivery service. Not all catering businesses were able to take advantage of Government help such as the £10 support for meals in restaurants.
A number of businesses saw a positive future and either moved premises or also added a service to their usual way of business. It can be noted that Lisa Roberts Catering opened the Coffee Pod in Middle Row on Saturday 5th December.
In the midst of the first lockdown, family based Kasmicks Hot Rock Restaurant prepared for their relocation and opened in larger premises. Sundon Model shop saw their future in Dunstable and moved from Luton to the Quadrant. My Sewing Basket, a haberdashery and another husband a wife team, started offering a home delivery service.
Many local businesses have been around for some years and embedded themselves in the community. Hayhoe’s Newsagents, founded by the current owner’s parents in 1952, had the longest-serving sub Post Office in Dunstable before it was closed as part of the Post Office’s reorganisation some 10 years ago. It has adapted to become much more a general store.
Travel business – Suitcase Travel – run by Mike, Lyn and daughter, Penny, found themselves rearranging customers’ holidays and securing refunds. Reopening mid-July, they had new bookings. Various changes in quarantine restrictions either here in the UK or abroad, have had to be worked around. Many in the travel business are being well and truly challenged.
Accountants Spicer’s, husband and wife team and the latter’s sister and staff, have had their work cut out advising their clients about the Government’s scheme for business support, furlough, job retention scheme and self-employed support. Additional matters added to their usual range of advice, as well as opening a second office in Newport Pagnell.
Businesses like Dunstable Laminates and Joinery had to close for a while but reopened after further health and welfare measures to accord with the pandemic regulations being implemented to ensure the highest level of safety for both staff and customers.
Hairdressers had to close leaving many with a new hairstyle and no doubt longer hair than some liked. The regular visits by clients, many exchanging family news, had to be put on hold. For sisters at R&R Hair Services and next door at Rejuvenate Therapy Massage Clinic, their feelings that their customers were like an extended family, left a temporary void.
Another business relying very much on regular local support is Ocean Breeze, a more recently established Fish and Chip outlet with shops in both Katherine Drive and on the Langdale Parade. Closure meant losses but customers’ loyalty enabled them to reopen with confidence and once again offer a historical, traditional British favourite meal.
Bathrooms and kitchens are important when purchasing a new home or when the time has come for a change, whether looking for a complete refurbishment or a ‘spruce up’. Dream Doors on Lowther Road had to close for over two months, but, being well supported by customers who had had their jobs paused, they were able to complete those orders as well as coping with new ones once the lock down was lifted. BrightonBeautiful on the Brittany Court Parade has confidence in the future, opening a new kitchen department to add to their bathroom show room – just before the second lock down!
While there was a pause in house sales with Covid-19 initially having an impact, Government for a time halting property exchanges, staff at Alexanders who had recently moved to new premises, now found themselves working remotely. Market reaction at the end of the first lock down was positive especially with the return of 5% mortgages encouraging first time buyers to enter the market.
Further outlets have recently opened – Happy Pot – a Romanian family-owned café and Shreeji International offering fresh fruit and vegetables, African and Chinese groceries, both in the Quadrant. A new bakery is soon to open, also in the Quadrant, being a part of Dariela Cakes.
On a final musical note, Octave Music reopened. The current owner remarked how he had seen many changes over the years in both the music business as well as in the retail sector generally. Little did he, like us all, expect the temporary closures for non-essential outlets which the pandemic brought. And then, this outlet had to close for the second time.
A recurring theme has been the real support and loyalty of the community for many local businesses. A positive outlook was expressed by many. That all which have been mentioned in these articles are still surviving, is a tribute to their tenacity, as well as that needed customer support. We will no doubt be subject to more ‘ups and downs’ but we all hope 2021 will bring some certainly for the future for all our businesses and for our own well-being.
The Town Mayor and Mayoress wish all Dunstable family businesses the very best. The Mayor hopes to contact those he has not seen and to continue these articles in the New Year. Their best wishes also of course go to all the other businesses in and around town. When he runs out of family businesses, he could look for a new theme?!
If any family run businesses would like to contact the Mayor with a view to contributing to this series of articles, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org