Shop Local Hitchin: ‘Now, more than ever, your support makes all the difference’
- Credit: Archant
A Hitchin business owner has spoken about the importance of the town’s supportive customers and the challenge of opening a new store in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like most of us, Amy Welch – owner of the independent shop Vintage Bay – has had a rollercoaster 2020.
This journey begins in March, as Amy was just one signature away from leasing a retail unit in High Street before the brunt of COVID–19 hit the country.
Instead of shying away from the opportunity to expand, Amy’s business has gone from strength to strength and she recently opened ‘Vintage Bay At Christmas’ just two doors down from her current store in Churchyard.
Amy said: “I absolutely love a challenge and think that taking calculated risks is an important part of business.
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“I’ve been determined to expand and to create something new to sit aside the foundations I’ve built over the last four years for some time.
“After March, and under the shadow of COVID-19, I chose to take a different path. One that enabled me to continue doing the job I love, hunting treasure and offering my customers something extra special.”
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Vintage Bay Home now houses Amy’s Christmas collection for three months each year, and from January onwards it will be full of rustic furniture, unique props and vintage pieces and general homeware.
In Amy’s words, the first week of business at her new store was “full-blown but fantastic”.
She completed the refurbishment of the shop with the support of friends and family – including decorating the inside at midnight, sourcing vintage “goodies” at 4am and everything in between.
“Being a self employed working mum with a six-year-old and a business that operates seven days a week is as challenging as it sounds,” Amy adds.
“I juggle like you wouldn’t believe but my little boy appreciates the value of hard work already – he knows I work because I love what I do.
“I completed the shop refurb myself, with amazing support from friends and family.
“I’m only human so there are days where I feel guilty because of my workload and days where I feel pride. I think that is a natural part of being a full-time working mum.”
Asked why she thinks Hitchin has such a large and varied offering of independent shops, Amy’s reply was simple.
“Hitchin is a beautiful town and our residents are close knit are proud to live here and to be part of its community. We always protect and support one another wherever we can and that was evident during lockdown,” Amy said.
“The support of local residents has always been important, but now more than ever, their support makes all the difference.
“If a customer goes out their way to buy just one thing from my shop, even if it’s just a card, I feel so grateful.
“It’s a conscious decision to choose an independent, as it’s so easy to pick up something from the supermarkets or Amazon these days. It means a lot as every sale counts for us.”
And just how much has the pandemic impacted Amy’s business?
“Our customers are very loyal and always have been.
“We’re also supported by a great team at the Hitchin BID and on a personal level, I’ve experienced nothing but positivity and encouragement.
“But, from a business perspective, I can only describe the pandemic as like having the rug pulled from under you and then feeling winded for months on end.
“In March, many tears were shed. There were sleepless nights and so much uncertainty.
“I had to pull myself together quickly as I knew people were in a much worse situation, I had my health and a young child to support.
“The approaching Winter season is usually our busiest time so I will do my best to make it work in the circumstances.
“In addition to the two shops, I’m going to be sharing a Christmas Chalet in Market Place with Maison Blanc. We are hoping to help one another and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Vintage Bay at Christmas is open until Christmas Eve this year, where it will transform into Vintage Bay Home for 2021.
You can check out what they offer at @thevintagebayuk on Instagram, or on their website at www.thevintagebay.co.uk.