UK Independents’ Day
You may know that this weekend is Independence Day, but did you know that it‘s also Independents’ Day? Becky tells us more…
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was first established in 1855, making the company Horsham’s longest-running independent business! The organisation now has further offices across West Sussex – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – and employs and enthusiastic group of people who like to make the most of their local area. As an independent and family-run business, Freeman Brothers is keen to support both the local community and other small businesses, with the forthcoming national ‘Independents’ Day’ presenting an ideal opportunity. Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, tells us more…
One of the significant positives I’m taking from the COVID-19 pandemic is the opportunity to learn more about my local area. I grew up near Horsham, and have lived here for many years, but there’s still a lot I didn’t know, partly due to my love of travel! I usually take every chance I can to explore different parts of the world, and am itching to dust off my passport and go further afield again.
However, in the interest of making the most of an undesirable situation, I’ve tried hard during the last year to spend time at local attractions, and my money within local businesses. It’s been an incredibly difficult year for so many of us both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, many businesses haven’t survived, but it’s been a real joy to see those that have flourish.
Of course, one of the key issues has been that few of us saw the pandemic coming, and even those who did hadn’t necessarily appreciated the gravity, nor the impact of the government’s response. Some people may have thought that they were well-prepared, but that has proven to not necessarily be the case. On top of this, life can just be unpredictable, and other things have happened in addition to COVID-19 which have presented people with further challenges.
One business I particularly felt for was Horsham’s Kaya Café. Many Horsham residents complain that the town has become dominated by café culture (and hairdressers – more on those soon!), but retail is an increasingly challenging marketplace, and I do think that our culture will change in the coming years to reflect this. Again, the pandemic has helped: due to travel restrictions, we’ve all spent more time locally, and there’s been a clear appetite for wishing to enjoy ourselves out and about when possible.
In the beginning though, Kaya looked to be doomed: having taken over the park’s Conservatory Café and renovated it, the new occupants had targeted an opening date of 16th March 2020. With Mother’s Day that weekend, it looked to be a great idea… until it wasn’t. They opened for a few days, before the hospitality industry got shut down later that week, with our full lockdown happening soon after. Eventually, they were able to start up a hugely successful takeaway service, with the glorious summer and their position in the park assisting with this.
Another local business which was born in 2020 and has quickly taken off is Gwyn’s Bakery on Bishopric. On opening day, excitement was high and the bakery had an enormous queue. It specialises in sourdough and other loaves, as well as offering a selection of different pastries daily (cinnamon bun day happens to be my favourite…) plus coffees.
Happily, more established independent businesses have thrived too. Crates Local Produce in the Carfax quickly set up virtual shopping, whereby they used video calls to allow customers to select their produce, which was particularly important for those who were shielding, or couldn’t otherwise get out easily. Items were then placed in a taxi and sent straight to their home. Since opening for face-to-face business again, the shop now has even more loyal customers and has continued to maintain steady business.
Outside of Horsham, somewhere that attracted rave reviews was Tulley’s Farm. Usually an events space, and quickly struggling due to the uncertainty of what lay ahead, the team reverted to a version of their original business model. The farm had initially been set up as a produce shop, and they reinvented this 2020-style: Tulley’s became a drive thru farm shop!
Visitors were directed around the site, having driven past a large board advertising the produce available that day – everything from fruit and vegetables to meat, fish, dairy products, and all sorts of other things – to place an order with a member of staff. There was then a highly-technical procedure involving a card payment machine being angled towards the driver which had been taped to a long pole, and your car’s registration number was taken prior to you being waved through to the waiting area. Once your order was packed, all that was necessary was for you to unlock the boot of your car for the order to be placed inside contactlessly and for you to drive away!
Once businesses were able to re-open as we emerged from the first lockdown, much was made of necessary safety measures and changes to operating procedures. This was particularly relevant for ‘personal care’ organisations – businesses such as hair and beauty salons – which involve close contact between staff and customers.
From disposable aprons to face coverings, and wiping down workstations, plus reducing capacity, salons look very different versus how they ran prior to being temporarily shut down. There are many hairdressers and beauty salons to choose from in Horsham, and happily lots of them are independent businesses, including The Company, which is my preferred salon. I’ve been impressed by the beauty industry’s resilience: salon cleanliness has always been important, and it’s something that has taken the rest of us a pandemic to catch up with!
Whilst they currently look a little different, thanks to staff and customers alike wearing PPE, it’s even better than ever to have the chance to be pampered. Better still is the fact that fellow residents of our local area are employed by these businesses, and back to doing the work that they enjoy whilst putting smiles on our faces.
It may surprise people to consider that the fitness industry is another area of business which has independent options. There are several leisure facilities nearby, with my chosen gym, Dual Strength + Fitness, being a well-established choice. Again, the business has had to adapt: there’s an online booking system to ensure capacity restrictions are adhered to; visitors have their temperature taken prior to entry; and above all, gym users are now fastidiously cleaning equipment and tidying it away (another measure many of us wish had been implemented sooner!).
Fitness has been important to many of us during the pandemic, with exercising at home (or outdoors when the weather permits) helping lots of us to support our mental and physical health during this challenging time. Exercise fans were quite split when it was announced that gyms could re-open, with many being apprehensive, or even ambivalent as they had come to enjoy training at home. Some of us could hardly wait to get back, and for those who are fans of group classes, it was a frustratingly longer wait, but activities have now resumed.
I’m always keen to try other independent businesses, and there hasn’t been enough space to mention all of the ones I love! If you’ve got a suggestion (particularly food-related!), I’d love to hear them, so leave a comment and let me know where I should visit next.
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497