Shop set for new home after a fire, a move and lockdown

Carolyn Strike, sales assistant at Rainbow Wholefoods on Labour in Vain Yard in Norwich which will be moving on July 13.

Carolyn Strike, sales assistant at Rainbow Wholefoods on Labour in Vain Yard in Norwich which will be moving shortly to Davey Place. - Credit: Danielle Booden

He had to move his business overnight after a fire, took on a major refurbishment and fought to stay in business during the Covid lockdown.

And after investing several thousands of pounds into renovating a new business premises, the owner of Rainbow Wholefoods, Richard Austin, is feeling optimistic ahead of moving into a bigger Norwich store on July 13.

He is closing the doors at its current home on Labour in Vain Yard on July 10 and moving into the former Jessops store on Davey Place.

Richard Austin from Rainbow Wholefoods

Richard Austin, owner of Rainbow Wholefoods in Norwich. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Mr Austin said: "It has been a long project. In 2018 my wife and I were visiting friends in Wales in an area of utter tranquility and I got this phone call saying my shop was on fire.

"Since then I have had to move the shop, refurbish the original shop, move back into it and then along came Covid.

"I'll be relieved when we move because it has been so much hard work for me and my colleagues. It has been very tiring.

"I wish Covid would go away and we could live our lives properly. We are reasonably optimistic. We can give people something they want."

He made the choice to only allow staff to serve customers at the door during the whole of the lockdown until now because the business, which he started in 1976, was based on Buddhist ideas on keeping people safe.

Fire at Rainbow Wholefoods in Labour in Vain Yard. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Firefighters at the scene of the Rainbow Wholefoods building fire in Labour in Vain Yard, Norwich, in 2018. - Credit: Geraldine Scott

Mr Austin said: "It has been difficult for us because our views about protecting human health have been a big contrast on how a business runs. We have taken a big hit by not letting people into our shop but we chose to do that.

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"On an average week, about two or three people are quite nasty to my staff about our policy, which has been hard. When people are abusive they don't recognise how that affects shop workers."

The University of East Anglia graduate added shop workers nearby Rainbow Wholefoods had suffered more from customer aggression and as the country eased out of lockdown, he called for "a bit of tolerance".

Work underway on the new Rainbow Wholefoods store in Davey Place.

Work underway on the new Rainbow Wholefoods store in Davey Place. - Credit: Simon Parkin

He is excited about welcoming customers back into the Davey Place shop, which will employ nine staff.


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