This mini-series features several small retail and hospitality businesses who have survived, and, in some instances, thrived, during lockdown. The first case is about Origin Fine Foods – a small delicatessen and cafe in West Yorkshire.
Local heroes – rising to the occasion
While some cafes and small stores closed up shop and stayed at home, fearful for what the future held, these two plucky ladies have become legends, inspiring others and becoming superstars of the community of Clayton, Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Origin Fine Foods opened its doors in Clayton, Bradford in March 2019 and had been running for just a year when lockdown started. It is a café and delicatessen stocking Yorkshire sourced food and beverages. The café menu includes items such as Yorkshire Pudding Wrap, pie n’ peas as well as jacket potatoes with Whitby crab and lemon mayo, and cheesy fondues made from Yorkshire cheese and bread and a choice of delicious cakes and desserts to follow. I feel hungry just typing this!
Before lockdown, I hadn’t heard much about this little business, but as lockdown kicked in, I noticed that Origin Fine Foods had a near constant presence on the local village Facebook page advising villagers of the revised product offer and new services to support the community. A flurry of positive comments and recommendations from others always followed. My interest was piqued!
Before the lockdown announcement was made on Monday 23rd March, owners, Jenni and Abbey, had already decided to close their seating area to protect customers and the team. However, this was the main source of income for the small business. They relied on sales of their Yorkshire Breakfasts and lunches, in particular, to keep the business viable.
Instead of battening the hatches and hoping for best, within hours of the lockdown announcement, Jenni and Abbey had a plan. Jenni explains “As desperate as the situation appeared, in reality, the decision was simple. We had two outcomes to choose from; close our doors or keep them open and change our business model.”
Meeting the needs of the community
They realised that they could have an important role in supporting the people of Clayton. So, alongside their artisan Yorkshire foodstuff, they started to stock such incongruous items such as canned tuna, pasta, toilet rolls, and 300 other new lines to support the needs of the community. Jenni and Abbey worked incredibly long hours, sourcing new or scarce products. When flour became scarce, they repacked 80kg bags of flour into manageable 1kg bags. In total, they bagged up nearly one tonne of flour for customers. They often had to travel across Yorkshire to collect items direct from bakeries and small manufacturers to ensure they had sufficient supplies to deliver to their local customers.
“We had to change the layout of the deli, install new shelving, take call after call from people in need of support and battle the wholesalers multiple times a day. Already long days became even longer.” Also, they offered free home deliveries for people who could not get to the shop or were too scared to do so. They even delivered fish and chips from the local chippie!
The product range expanded to include: a box of 32 essential items for £40; cream teas; chocolate boxes, and, my favourite, a ‘Movie night hamper’ of a tub of ice cream, bottle of pop, crisps, popcorn, Haribo and, wait for it……candy floss!
All items could be delivered to the customers’ doorsteps.
Jenni notes, “Nobody wants to feel successful amidst a pandemic, to feel like they are benefitting whilst others are losing people they love. It has not been easy for us; we have had to make our own sacrifices too and when we could have been staying safe at home, we were out helping others and serving our community.”
Jenni and Abbey have worked extremely hard and sacrificially to keep the business operating and support the local community. It could have folded if they had done nothing. However, I’m sure that the business will thrive and expand as a result of Jenni and Abbey’s big heart for the community – research is showing that the public will remember the companies that went of their way to help others during this difficult time (and those who didn’t). Origin’s Facebook page now has over 1,700 followers. Not bad for a small village café/retailer!
If you would like to find out more about Origin Fine Foods, please click here to go to their website: https://www.originfinefoods.co.uk/
Have you got a business lockdown story to share? How did you adapt to ensure that staff and customers were kept safe?