'Revitalised and positive' - Thetford businesses react to roadmap news
- Credit: Emily Thomson
As winter turns to spring and the end of lockdown is finally in sight, there is a sense of cautious optimism in the air in Thetford. Emily Thomson spoke with business owners in the town.
For businesses who have been forced to close, then open and then close again, they are hoping this is the last time, after the government announced its "roadmap" out of the third national lockdown.
Jane James owner of ‘Not Just For Books’, an independent book store in Thetford town centre, said there is “finally a light at the end of the tunnel” after it was announced that non-essential business could return by April 12.
Ms James opened her store in October last year, just before the second lockdown, and has had to rely on her ‘call and collect’ service to keep the new business ticking over.
She said: “It gives us something to work towards and yet if it changes and put back a week or two that’s fine, we at least know where we are now.
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“That’s the key thing, there is the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think this lockdown has been harder because in the November lockdown we knew where the end was - it was for the month and it was focused.
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“But with the sunshine coming out, the days are getting longer, the news of the ‘roadmap’ we are feeling revitalised and positive. Spring is springing and hopefully so will the high-street.”
Tom Gray and Sam Styles also took over Tall Orders café, in November last year and have been offering a takeaway service selling coffee, cake and small meals throughout the third lockdown.
Following the government’s announcement, Mr Gray, from Brandon, said they are “excited” to welcome back customers who will be able to sit outside and enjoy a coffee and some cake from April 12.
The 54-year-old said: “I wasn’t surprised that they are being a little bit cautious this time.
“I think they learnt from opening too quickly last time, but now we have the vaccinations as well.
“I'm really excited about being here. It’s a fantastic town and we have made loads of friends already.
“The local people and regular customers we have are absolutely brilliant people and they have been so supportive.
“It will be better when people can come in and sit down but it’s just the way it is right now. If we don’t get it under control, we will never get out of it.
"We are looking forward to getting back to full steam."
Magda Teixeira, is the owner of Precious Bear, located at The Shambles market place, which sells baby products and clothes.
Despite feeling relieved that a date has been set for shops to reopen, she still has concerns about the future.
She said “It has just been too long. For small business, they did really well with sanitising and social distancing. I don’t think we were that big of a risk compared to big supermarkets.
“I wish it was sooner, but you’re always hoping things will go back to normal.
“The business has been okay because we have had help from the government. But moving forward I do think we will pay for this at some point in the future, that’s the unknown for me.
“For now, we are okay but in about one to two years' time, it is hard to say.
“I’m not sure the economy will be there, or customers. I think we will all be paying for what's going on at the moment.”
The Leaping Hare information hub in Thetford is also planning to reopen on April 12 and its director, Corinne Fulford, said despite challenges ahead she is feeling “cautiously optimistic”.
She said: “It may not happen the way you want it to happen and there are massive challenges ahead, but at least we have a date to plan around and that has what has been really difficult.
"This last lockdown has been awful. We have only survived because of the government grant money and also Breckland Council have been offering free digital training and workshops, so I took advantage of those.
“There are things happening and it is positive. It is all go. Even though our doors won't be open until April 12 we are still busy.”