'Coming back with a bang' - how five traders are feeling ahead of April 12

Clockwise, from top, Francis Woolf, Eric Snaith, Deb Dominic, Nicola Ready and Ray Smith

Clockwise, from top, Francis Woolf, Eric Snaith, Deb Dominic, Nicola Ready and Ray Smith, who will all be reopening their businesses from April 12. - Credit: Various

In one week, thousands of businesses that have been shut for months will finally be allowed to reopen.

From April 12, if the government's roadmap goes to plan, outdoor attractions and retail deemed non-essential will be able to reopen, and hospitality businesses will be able to serve customers outdoors.

We have asked five local business owners to share their thoughts with one week to go - and we will see how they get on over the next couple of weeks.

Deb Dominic from Hairsmiths

Deb Dominic at Hairsmiths. - Credit: Hairsmiths

It feels like going on a first date

Deb Dominic, owner of Hairsmiths salon in Norwich's Timberhill, said: “Preparing to go back to work on April 12 feels to me like I’m going on a date for the first time with someone I’ve been in love with for years! Excited but nervous, prepared but slightly apprehensive.

“We held back from rebooking clients at first but once April 12 seemed like it was a definite date we started ringing people who’d had appointments cancelled because of lockdown. So, we’re really busy in April. I think customers felt safe before, seeing all the measures we were taking, so aren’t as worried about returning as they perhaps were after the first lockdown. 

“Even though we have done this before, with structure and processes that have made our returns streamlined and reassuring, this last lockdown has seemed to go on forever and has left so many feeling disheartened. It will be really great to get back into the salon and back to what we love doing best."

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She added: “2020 was set to be our year as it would have been our first full year at Timberhill, the world pressed paused on that year, so as we move into 2021 and our 10th year in business we plan to come back to work with a bang and launch more exciting plans than ever.”

Nicola Ready, the owner of Flories.

Nicola Ready, the owner of Flories. - Credit: Emily Thomson

You feel like you're opening for the first time

Nicola Ready, 56, owns Flories, an independent women’s clothing store in Diss.  

She said: “It has been difficult to be closed for another three and a half months. But I have made the most of that time, I have redecorated the whole shop and I have tried to keep myself busy. Doing what I can in here, making a few changes.  

“When we got the April 12 date, that was lovely but obviously we still have to be careful with how many we have in, social distancing and wearing masks.  

“But it has been nice to have a date to prepare - we are getting new spring and summer stock in and a total changeover.  

“We will have to adhere to the guidance, but I think people have had all year now to adapt. They do it automatically now.  

“You feel a bit like you're opening for the first time, there are some nerves, but I am looking forward to it and it will be lovely to have people in the shop. We have had click and collect at the door. But it’s not the same of them coming in and having a browse."

Eric Snaith, owner of Eric's Fish and Chips which has just opened on Fish Hill in Holt. Picture: Nei

Eric Snaith. - Credit: Archant

Challenging to know how busy we'll be

Eric Snaith is owner of Titchwell Manor hotel and restaurant, as well as Eric’s Fish and Chips in Holt and Thornham and Eric's Pizza in Thornham.

He said: “There have been quite a few people booking dinner at the hotel, but we don’t take bookings at the other restaurants and that tends to be an advantage for us. The challenge at the moment is trying to anticipate how busy we’ll be. 

“During the winter we put in a new frying range [at Eric’s Fish and Chips in Thornham]. We needed the extra capacity because we now do click and collect. We also built an outdoor decking area that’s heated and covered. There’s going to be a lot of outdoor eating so we’ve tried to improve that experience as much as we can.

“We’ve been trying to take advantage of the downtime by preparing for what will hopefully be a very busy summer, and all that groundwork will have paid off.”

Ray Smith with animals at Camel Park Oasis, near Halesworth. PHOTO: Camel Park Oasis

Ray Smith with animals at Camel Park Oasis, near Halesworth. PHOTO: Camel Park Oasis - Credit: Archant

The animals will be pleased 

Ray Smith, owner of Camel Park Oasis, in Cratfield, near Halesworth, said: "We are a little bit in the dark about what we can and cannot do but we are definitely opening on April 12 as it stands.

"It will probably be much the same as it was last summer, with social distancing and asking people to keep to the left on our wide paths, but we are not yet 100pc sure on any other restrictions we might need to follow.

"But I am delighted to be able to reopen. We need the income from the public because we still have to do all the work regardless of whether people can come and visit.

"We still have to feed, water and care for the animals and without income it has been a bit of a struggle and we are pretty desperate to reopen.

"We know quite a lot of people are planning on coming and we've had lots of emails asking what is going to be running, so the interest is there.

"It will be nice to see people again, and I am sure the animals will be pleased because they've missed having visitors too."

Francis Woolf from Woolf & Social. Picture: Courtesy of Woolf & Social

Francis Woolf from Woolf & Social. - Credit: Courtesy of Woolf & Social

We are champing at the bit

Francis Woolf, at Woolf and Social restaurant on Nelson Street in Norwich, said his team was raring to reopen.

"We are getting the team back together which is exciting," he said. "It will be lovely to see all of our staff again. We are writing a new menu and we are giving the outdoor area our full attention. It feels like summer is kicking in.

"We are so excited to open, we are champing at the bit. We have kept ourselves busy in various ways, and been doing takeaways and customers have supported us really well. But what we love doing is producing some slightly more interesting food than we can do for takeaways.

"Our bookings are pretty much full for the first couple of weeks - we're limited by outdoor seating but I'm feeling fairly confident at the moment."

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