It also supports local people by replacing a recently lost butchers shop in the local town. We have been really fortunate to have had enormous support and appreciation from the local community and we have done our part in actively promoting other local businesses in town and working with local suppliers.
Our aspiration was always to provide affordable, quality produce, much of which is made in house by local staff.
We have provided local jobs, another strong influence in business planning.
Our first few months were very successful, in spite of opening in the depths of the winter season and we were looking forward to a strong summer season - in fact we were beginning to wonder how we would manage without increasing staffing and opening hours (such was the strength of support and increasing visitors). We had not widely advertised the business due to the winter season but word has spread because of customer satisfaction.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold and restrictions were starting we decided to concentrate much more on the retail side of the business. We didn’t want to advertise this due to the numbers of people coming from out of the area to use local shops- we wanted to help local people rather than the people who were descending on the area to raid local shops. So, we set up a shop in our meeting room and only told customers face to face when they came to the shop. They were delighted to find we were selling essentials such as flour , basic store cupboard items and even toilet rolls (which we kept very quiet!)
And then came lockdown........
Until then we had operated our cafe although customers were much reduced in number but of course that had to stop completely.
By this time we had increased our product range and people were beginning to use us much more for shopping
Staffing had to be changed and when the furlough scheme was put in place, two staff were furloughed and the key team of three staff plus myself discussed systems and sales strategies to move forwards . We had a basic order system in place that was time consuming and began working With the Alston Essentials team to deliver orders across the Alston Moor Parish.
Then, totally out of the blue, I received a message from Colin Bradshaw from Garrigill (who I had never met). He offered to build us an online shop, complete with a card checkout system and invoicing facility. That completely transformed our offer and we remain very grateful to him for his generosity and support, not only for The Nook but for the wider local community .
From that point, people could place orders and pay online. It hasn’t been without its issues but these have mainly been due to human error!! The great thing Is that we have got to know local people, word has spread about The Nook and people have been amazed at what they can buy online. They have told us that the service overall is a “god send” and some have told us that they have not shopped anywhere but locally and that it has changed their ideas about how to live post lockdown.
Our farm meat sales have increased too and we have managed to keep three staff in work. It has been exhausting at times, worrying at others as we have looked at the business model . But we have maintained an adaptable spirit and continued to think about customers needs. We have also continued to increase our offer, be responsive to customer needs, fulfilled our aspiration to keep people “on the Moor” and support the resilience of the local community .
After 38 years of living here I never doubted the Alston community’s ability to rise to the challenges presented by Covid-19 and we have been very happy to be part of the response.
It has been a tremendous Nook Team effort and I want to thank Zoe Wilkin, Judith Wood and Susan Richardson for their help. In the background are Lisa Robinson and Amy Slater (currently furloughed staff) who have remained part of the team and negotiations. I hope they will be back very soon to help us open up again as restrictions are lifted .
We intend to continue to be a local shopping outlet for the Moor and hope that our many satisfied customers will remain with us in the future.