Edwin Harrison and his wife Magda opened up Artisan coffee shop in Ealing Broadway six years ago. It reopened in late May and Edwin was relieved to find the demand was still there for top quality take-away coffee.
However, he described the last few difficult months of lockdown as being a ‘rollercoaster’ as the couple found creative ways to keep their business going.
Artisan is the second local business in our series looking at surviving, or even thriving, despite the economic impact of coronavirus.
‘It was heart-breaking’
Edwin (pictured above at Artisan with barista Peter) said: “When we first got told of the need to close, the very first worry that we had was ‘what on Earth were our staff going to do?’
“There was a gap between lockdown being announced and the furlough scheme, so, we decided to set up a donation site to support the Artisan team. We sold bags of coffee beans online and people could pay what they liked. We passed everything on to the team. It kept us busy while shutting the shops at the same time and it meant we managed to pay the team until the furlough scheme kicked in, and that was amazing.
“It was heart-breaking loading up masses of stock from the shop as we shut down. It felt like watching six years of our hard work going down the drain.
“We sold coffee beans online and we delivered them to homes. It was almost out of the boot of our car and we were running around like mad because we had furloughed the whole team, so it was just us. It kept us in people’s minds so, when we did reopen, we would be remembered. And it was a huge relief to open up again in May.”
‘Like being in episodes of the Apprentice’
“We, like all shops, are in a position of having to adapt to survive. We have become more focused on the take-away side of things rather than have-in.
“The first few months were like we were in a constant episode of the Apprentice, where we were set new tasks to recreate the business each time. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster.
“So, it was a hell of a relief when people were there on the first day after we opened up. And it was strange because nobody really knew what people would want. What we discovered was that they just wanted a decent coffee after three months of lockdown and we were very happy to provide it!
“The thing about Ealing customers is that they are incredibly loyal; and they keep a look-out for the independents. And we are certainly being looked after by them, which is wonderful.”
‘Nobody wants a boarded-up high street’
Now, it is all about life in the ‘new normal’ and Edwin is encouraging local people to get shopping locally.
He said: “With good social distancing in place you can still run a good business, with a lot of care and attention for both staff and customers.
“Now we need as many people as possible to spread the word that ‘Ealing is back’.
“We have never needed them more than we need them now. People power is the only thing that will get our high streets through this.
“We need to get to some kind of socially distanced ‘normal’ as soon as possible to survive. And I don’t mean in order to make money, I mean just to be there at all. Nobody wants a boarded-up high street.
“Shop owners need to show they have a safe and pleasant environment and a good product; and residents need to go out and get back to shopping locally.”