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Norwich street bounces back from being a ‘ghost town’

PUBLISHED: 11:53 19 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:21 19 June 2020

Juber Ali, of The Fish and Chip Shop in Magdalen Road. Picture: Denise Bradley

Juber Ali, of The Fish and Chip Shop in Magdalen Road. Picture: Denise Bradley

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As the first week of trading draws to a close for many businesses since lockdown forced them to shut their doors, Clarissa Place has visited one Norwich street to see how its traders are bouncing back.

Juber Ali, owner of The Fish & Chip Shop, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJuber Ali, owner of The Fish & Chip Shop, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Monday, June 15, was a turning point for businesses up and down the country as they began trading for the first time since lockdown.

In Magdalen Street, a plethora of shops ranging from cafes to antiques, music to fabrics, have been enjoying the return of customers.

At shops such as Anglian Fashion Fabrics, customers were queuing along the road to go in, with sister shop Anglian Furnishing Fabrics also back open after three months of trade.

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Glad to see more shops open was The Fish and Chip Shop owner Juber Ali, who has been offering a takeaway and delivery service over lockdown.

Anna Konstantynowicz in her café, La Petite Coffee Shop, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAnna Konstantynowicz in her café, La Petite Coffee Shop, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Ali said: “It was a ghost town I could stand in the road and play football, it was dead. Since lockdown has eased I have seen a lot more people.”

Over the last 12 weeks the fish and chip shop has seen trade increase by 50pc even without lunchtime trading, which it has reintroduced this week as more people head back to work and to the high street.

It also has helped the community by providing fish and chip dinners for the city’s homeless and a number of “covid” offers for meals under £5.

More: ‘We sell enough in three hours to pay the bills’ - the pub where beer has continued to flow during lockdown

Also serving up home made treats and snacks to takeaway is Anna Konstantynowicz, who runs La Petite coffee shop, who reopened on Tuesday.

David Lee of Love of Pets, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYDavid Lee of Love of Pets, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The 25-year-old has run the business for four of its seven years, and decided not to operate a takeaway service through lockdown, taking the time to renovate.

The former Norwich University of Arts student described the street as diverse with its range of shops and characters

Miss Konstantynowicz said: “I know a lot of people did takeaway, I didn’t see how it would work with my business so I just reopened this week.

“Lockdown has allowed me to do work I have not had the time to do because there is so much to do here. I would be in here from 6am in the morning to 5pm, It’s been nice to come back to a new renovated shop.”.

Patrick Wilshire of Looses Emporium, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPatrick Wilshire of Looses Emporium, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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For some businesses, the chance to reopen is the start of relieving financial pressures.

Pat Wilshire, of Looses Emporium, said the antiques business feels “back to the start” after not qualifying for a business support grant from the government while it was closed.

Mr Wilshire, who has run the business for 10 years, said: “It’s a hard thing you put seven days a week into it for all that time. It seems like we are starting all over again. It is good to get back to some normality

The queue of shoppers for Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Magdalen Street, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe queue of shoppers for Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Magdalen Street, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It is a bit disheartening. It’s costing me my own money.”

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He said there were positives, with many customers coming in during the week and buying instead of browsing.

During lockdown the business tried to trade online during lockdown but was unable to secure courier services to deliver items.

Mr Wilshire said: “If people want to get back to a place that they knew before its a slow process. I think people want to get out and get some normality.”

Phil Grote who has opened Merchants House with a counter in the entrance doorway in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPhil Grote who has opened Merchants House with a counter in the entrance doorway in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Those that have been supported by the government grant scheme such as Phil Grote, of the Merchant’s House cafe and bar, says it has been a “life saver” for the business.

Currently, he is selling takeaway hot, cold and alcoholic drinks and cake from a homemade counter at their front door.

He said; “Some ways it has been quite useful to catch up on paperwork but financially it’s not all been great. We have been lucky to get a grant and that has been a life saver.

“It’s a case of cutting our losses rather than raking in a fortune.”

Anna Konstantynowicz in her café, La Petite Coffee Shop, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAnna Konstantynowicz in her café, La Petite Coffee Shop, one of the shops open in Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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At Love of Pets, owner Dave Lee says as footfall continues to increase, trade will start to pick back up, running at about 30pc of normal trade.

Its home delivery service continued over lockdown which Mr Lee said was the difference in being able to pay the bills.

Mr Lee said; “Before lockdown that was probably the best week we have ever had. The supermarkets had all been stripped of their pet food and people came to us in the hope they could get what they need.

“We have had new customers who said they are going to stick with us for home deliveries and we hope to expand that in future. We just hope our customers do get back behind us when they feel safe to do so. It is about getting the message across that we are open, measures are in place to protect customers to get the customers back.”


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