We fight on: Harrogate independent traders vow to battle to keep customers during lockdown

If Harrogate town centre is to emerge intact from the latest Covid lockdown, it may be that it will be the unbeaten spirit of the independents in the retail sector that makes the difference.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 2:36 pm
Updated Friday, 6th November 2020, 2:46 pm

Within hours of the news of the latest hammer blow for businesses, many of Harrogate’s never say die indie traders were already planning to battle on - where the rules of the second full lockdown of the year permitted it.

Whether it’s William and Vics restaurant on Cold Bath Road announcing that it would be doing takeaway meals Thursday to Sunday with produce sourced from local suppliers or Commercial Street Retailers group calling on the public to support local retailers online, it’s the indies who have been rolling up their sleeves and digging deep.

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William & Vic owners Johanna and David Straker - "It is imperative that we do our best to support Harrogate businesses so that livelihoods are saved and the local economy is kept afloat."

Not all of them are allowed to trade and most share a feeling of devastation that all their hard work in making their customers feel safe since reopening has not proven enough but there is no feeling of throwing in the towel.

Johanna Straker of William & Victoria Restaurant and Wine Bar said: “It feels like the rug has been pulled from underneath our feet.

“We threw everything into adapting our business to comply with all the regulations. The second lockdown has come at the worst time of the year for the hospitality and retail industry and it will have a huge impact on Harrogate.

“But it is imperative that we do our best to support Harrogate businesses so that livelihoods are saved and the local economy is kept afloat. We are continuing with takeaway in order to cover our running costs as we are determined to see it through.”

Among Harrogate’s previously healthy independent cafe sector, Bakeri Baltzersens on Oxford Street, Marconi on Princes Square, the Deli Bar Harrogate on Regent Parade and 53 Bo’ Grove Cafe on Grove Road have already decided to stay open to offer takeaway to customers.

Award-winning Italian restaurant Sasso intends to do takeaways on at least Thursdays to Saturdays, Marconi cafe is looking at Wednesdays to Sundays, though no final decision has been made yet, while indie bar Major Tom’s Social craft beer bar is introducing vac pac pizza and a drinks delivery service during lockdown.

Toby Smith, co-owner of Major Tom’s Social, said: “The new lockdown is far from ideal from a business point of view but I totally understand something has to be done to save lives. We have adapted the business for lockdown before so feel we are prepared from what we learnt last time.

“We will be running a pizza takeout service for our customers where they can pick a time slot and place an order via our website.”

While not bright, the situation already feels a little different from the first time the Government took such drastic to tackle the pandemic.

Unlike the first full lockdown introduced on March 23 by Prime Minister Boris Johnson - when town centres such as Harrogate’s were deserted after all businesses except food stores, post offices and pharmacies shut there doors - this time round there may be more life.

Victoria Shopping Centre in Harrogate confirmed this week that Poundland, WH Smith, Post Office, Grape Tree and NM Money would be staying opening throughout the November lockdown period.

If it’s left to the latest business group to form within the town centre, then it is clear the indies are far from beaten yet.

Sue Kramer of Commercial Street Retailers Group is not denying life will not be tough in the weeks to come for the 20-plus independent shops on her street which make up the new organisation.

She said: “Most of the businesses on Commercial Street don’t sell online and being forced to close will be tough for them. But no one is going down without a fight.

“Tarbett’s fishmongers are staying open, as is Rafi’s Spicebox for curry boxes, and The Cheeseboard will be doing deliveries as during the first lockdown. I shall be cranking up Commercial Street’s social media and highlighting which shops do gift vouchers and where customers can shop online. As owner of Crown Jewellers for 20 years, I will be exploring online shopping and ways of showcasing stock on social media, then, perhaps, delivering items purchased over a certain value.

“We’re also looking at the possibility of click and collect.

“It’s all go! We are not beaten yet.”

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