Open for business! Celebrations as Hitchin's shops welcome customers back once more
- Credit: Maya Derrick
After what's felt like an eternity, businesses in our town centres have finally been given the green light to reopen.
Although there has been an overwhelming feeling of excitement as the latest coronavirus restrictions lift, Hitchin shop owners and staff have shared their honest feelings as they welcome customers and clients back into their stores.
Beth Hurley, owner of Glo & Blo Glam Bar on Hermitage Road, said that that "the last 12 months have been the most challenging of my career".
Beth said having the salon shut while still in its infancy was hard mentally, and put her business skills to the test.
"It hasn’t been pretty. [There's been] lots of uncertainty, blood, sweat and tears, but we have made it.
"As a business that was only eight months old to survive a global pandemic, we are beyond proud of our achievements."
The salon's manager, Siobhan Coyle, added: "It has been a whirlwind of emotions.
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Feeling "excited, proud and very exhausted", Siobhan described reopening as a "rollercoaster", but she felt "so ready to open and get back to doing what we love best!"
Across town, the team behind H-Town Rags were on top form, with Ellie Tomlin saying that welcoming customers back into their shop was "so weird, it's really strange!"
Adding that it felt uncanny that she could make conversation with customers once more, Charlotte Oaten continued that "it's been a bit of an emotional wave, but we really feel that morale and spirits are lifted in town. It's brilliant!"
As well as relaunching their Exchange Yard brand, H-Town Rags has expanded to the Arcade with a brand new store aptly named 'Our Favourite Shop', which launched on April 12.
Also relaunching not one but two brands is Amy Welch of Vintage Bay on Churchyard, who has rebranded to have one store for gifts and another for homeware.
Of the reopening, Amy said: "I feel like we've started all over again, and like it's my first day of school almost.
"I've been trading and dealing in antiques and vintage for years, and it just feels very exciting. It's an absolute relief and I'm really proud of this new shop. I've worked so hard all the way through this pandemic; I can't wait to get the doors open!
Amy has juggled the reopening two businesses with home-schooling her six-year-old son, all while refurbing her current premises and maintaining an online presence.
"We were having a discussion as to whether this will be our final time [reopening after a lockdown], and we just hope. We can only hope. What will be will be, and all we can do is make it as comfortable and safe and as welcoming as we can. Onwards and upwards!"
She added: "It'll be lovely to see customers face to face and thank them, because they've helped us get through this. I didn't know whether we would open on the other side, especially with the new shop. It was an unknown and I was unsure, but we worked really hard and, with a lot of support from our customers, we're here to tell the tale.
A few doors down is Salon Bon Bon, where owner Sue Lever spoke of her excitement ahead of her first clients of the day.
"It's a great day for all retailers. In Hitchin, the people around us are such a great community, and I'm sure we'll all hold together and get through it."
Cinnabar general manager Richard Pollard also expressed his delight in being open once more: "It's been a long time since we closed in December, so it's just good to get the doors open and welcome people back in."
With more than 300 people booked in for their opening day, he encouraged patrons to check out their new secret garden and other outside spaces, come rain, snow or shine!
Moving from fairly new Hitchin businesses to the oldest, Gatwards are also elated to be welcoming customers through their doors once more.
Charlotte Gatward told the Comet: “It has been a long few months of lockdown and we just cannot wait to open our doors and see our customers face to face again and help them with their jewellery purchases.
"The shop has been cleaned and reorganised and we are now more than ready!”
TwistedFabric's Rick Gaglio said: "We are pleased to be open and welcoming customers back to our store.
"It’s been a tough few months in lockdown and we thank all our loyal customers who have bought from our online store."
TwistedFabric re-opens with late night shopping Thursday through to Saturday, with an accompanying alfresco bar.
Have you had a chance to head out shopping, book yourself into a salon or have a pint in a pub garden yet? Let us know. Get in touch by emailing email@example.com.