Just before 9am on Monday customer Amanda Palmer was ready in her seat to maintain a tradition at the Nailed Up beauty parlour in Middlesbrough’s Dundas Indoor Market.
Amanda from Redcar has been Sarah Westwood’s first customer every time her business has been allowed to re-open after a lockdown.
“It’s great to be able to support a friendly, local and very good service,” said Amanda, who has been coming to Nailed Up for more than a decade. “It’s really nice to be able to spoil yourself as well.”
Sarah said she has a busy week ahead, with regular customers like Amanda booking appointments as soon as they could.
“I was so ready to get back” said Sarah. “It’s been such a long time.” She opened her beauty parlour in 2003, making her the second longest-standing business in the market. Customers of the oldest business – Jean’s Kitchen – will have to wait a bit longer before indoor cafes are allowed to open.
The lockdowns have seen a dramatic increase in pet ownership. Lucy Martin-Hall, who three years ago opened Leo Libra Pet Supplies, has made sure she is ready for the discerning dog and owner who visits her shop. She is supplying a new range of specialist food as well as introducing a biscuit pick n’ mix stand for dogs. Lucy will also be on hand to offer expert advice. “People have got a pet for lockdown and at the start they might struggle if they’ve not had one before. They can ask me anything,” she said.
Lucy said she expects customers to be wary to start with: “I don’t think they’re going to flood the shops and put people at risk. But I’ve always been optimistic that it would be OK once things were eased. It would take a lot more than what we’ve been through to make me give up.”
New shops at the indoor market also reflect how people began pursuing an interest in crafts during the long months of lockdown. For Sue Denny it was also a chance to turn her hobby of pyrography into a business.
She had started by taking a stall at Dundas Shopping Centre’s popular craft market and, when she was furloughed by her employer, she decided to “bite the bullet” and see if she could make a go of Ellenswood Pyrography.
Sue said she was encouraged by her initial meeting with the market manager David Harris who told her about the enterprise scheme he offers to some new businesses which provides them with discounted rents in the vital early months of trading.
The shop opened in September, but then – apart from 23 days of business in the run up to Christmas – has been closed until this week.
Nevertheless, said Sue, she is full of anticipation: “I’ve been awake since 6 o’clock and haven’t stopped grinning all morning. It’s great to get back into it again and just let people see the new things we’ve got and what we can do for them.”
The Crafty Patch has also re-opened. It showcases and sells the work of around 20 local crafters. “Because of the pandemic the craft fairs weren’t taking place, so we decided to get a unit here,” said John Dixon, who helps run the business.
“Before lockdown we were quite busy so we took the chance to get a bigger unit. It’s a bit like a craft fair – all different crafters – but in one place. Despite everything that’s happened I’m really confident about the future.”
Buckshees Military Surplus Supplies opened 27 years ago. It is run by Jeff Carroll and his three brothers who all served in the army.
“I’m relieved to get back. It’s been a long winter stuck at home. But we have to do what we have to do,” said Jeff.
“You can only play it day by day and do as you’re told. I think that’s been hard for some people over the past year, but being ex-military I’m used to it.”
David Harris, Dundas Market Centre Manager, said as well as introducing stringent COVID-safe measures the market had been given makeover during lockdown.
“It’s great to see the businesses re-open and welcome customers back. Many of them have been coming here for years so it will be good to see them again,” he said. “We want people to shop here and see the new things that are available to buy, but please make sure you adhere to our guidelines. They’re there for everybody’s benefit.”
One unexpected consequence of the pandemic is that a large empty shop unit in the Dundas Centre is being turned into one of 80 temporary UK job centres to help people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.
It is expected to open in June and will have a staff of around 50 people.