After 18 months of intensive planning and a brand-new barn conversion, Spotty Dog Farm Shop opened on Saturday 21st March….and closed again 3 days later as the Country went into Lockdown
Having invested so much time, energy and money into transforming our original business, (PinkBox Boutique) into the farm shop I had always dreamed of owning, I wasn’t about to give up everything we had worked for, and we had new staff to think of as well.
We knew we could serve our community by offering home delivery of essential food items, but we also needed to keep our staff safe, so we decided to keep our doors shut to the public. We shifted the shop around so we could fit in additional food, chilled food storage, and everything we would need to be able to change from being a traditional shop to a busy food distribution centre.
We also set up a Safe Zone outside the shop for customers who wanted to shop as part of their daily exercise and collect their orders from us. We risk assessed our potential new operation, rewrote all our policies and procedures in conjunction with our staff, so they were happy they would be safe coming in to work every day. Everything happened so quickly – it amazes me now when I look back at what we managed to achieve. Within the first couple of weeks we built an online ordering system so people could choose what they wanted to have delivered and we added in some treats including our legendary doughnuts and cakes.
During lockdown, our team worked ridiculously long hours to pick and pack orders and get them delivered, often late into the evening but everyone mucked in and wanted to do it. Our customers were amazing, and given it was so difficult to get slots with the big supermarkets, we were able to offer same day delivery to our local customers in Calne and Devizes and got such lovely, supportive messages too.
We had people contacting us from all over the country (and even one from Texas) looking for help to provide food deliveries to elderly parents living in our area because they couldn’t get delivery slots with any of the big supermarkets. We didn’t turn anybody away – we were able to deliver to anyone that needed a delivery on the day they wanted it.
It wasn’t easy – food supply chains nationally were struggling. Fresh produce prices became volatile and expensive, and the quality was often hit and miss as other countries struggled to continue to get their products out and into the UK. But, being a Farm Shop, we already had many local suppliers so we were able to keep much of our range in stock for the most part.
Spring is often a difficult time for local fruit & vegetables anyway and as we transitioned from last year’s stored stock to the new, freshly dug seasonal produce and after a soggy winter and then a very dry Spring, meant last year’s local produce was slow to grow and later arriving.
In May 2020, the Government gave the go-ahead for Garden Centres to open and we decided, as a team, that we were ready to open our doors again to the public. So, after another shift around in the shop and some additional measures put in place to keep our customers and our team safe, we did just that. Although we were able to re-open, we still also deliver to many customers who continue to shield and many of those have become friends!
Fast forward to July 2021…
Although restrictions have officially been lifted and our Farm Shop and our neighbours at the Rowdey Cow Café are fully open again, there can be no doubt, Covid and it’s effects are going to be with us for a long time to come. But now we know we can operate our business under complete lockdown or under special measures – we know that we can serve our customers safely whatever situation we find ourselves in. Lockdown was really hard work for us, but we learned so much and our team is closer and more determined than ever to see our business succeed.