'I knew there was support for me out there' - tea room owner on lockdown struggles
- Credit: Maya Derrick
As our local businesses welcome more and more customers through their doors, elation has set in for both owners and customers under the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Carolyn Palmer opened Molly's Tea Room on Bancroft six-and-a-half years ago, and said that reopening her doors on May 17 "felt like I was opening for the first time again."
Coining the last year of business as "a learning curve", Carolyn explained that her last 14 months of trading has seen a lot of "muddling through" as coronavirus guidance and laws continually changed.
"It was tricky, because everything kept changing," she said.
She also explained that, as a consequence of the ever-changing advice, one of the biggest heartbreaks she faced was having to cancel bookings that both she and her customers were looking forward to, which "felt disappointing and frustrating."
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But even when forced to close her doors, Carolyn managed to rustle up a phenomenal 85 afternoon teas for Mother's Day - a day where Molly's typically welcomes hoards of people through their doors
"I felt absolutely terrible turning people down, I felt terrible in disappointing them. I felt sorry for people that hadn't seen each other for a very long time, and were desperate to come in to meet up with friends and relatives that they hadn't seen for a while."
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But through the hoards of disappointment, Carolyn was comforted knowing that there were many who were willing to support her in any way they could: "I think lockdown may have shown a lot of people just how lucky and privileged we are to have so much to hand and to have so much available to us.
"People have been very supportive. My regular customers would walk by and bang on the window and wave to say hello! They kept an eye on me, they kept me in mind, and I knew that there was support for me out there."
Diversifying her business under lockdown, Carolyn had to move to takeaway only to keep business coming in. "We really didn't know how long this would go on for," she said. "I was being really prudent and very cautious about spending money, just in case this goes on forever or gets worse, I need to just keep doing as much of this as I can."
But she added that takeaways had a positive outcome: "I've reached people that have never come to us before. It's been good, but a lot of hard work. I'm working seven days, never having a day off and sometimes baking until 9pm!
"I was trying to do as much of it by myself to try and keep the place open."
She added: "The only way I could think of doing it was by working my socks off and doing as much as I could by myself.
"You have to learn to adapt, and adapt I did - especially with the takeaway afternoon teas. That's what saved me. I think if I hadn't done that, I wouldn't be here now."