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Cautious post-lockdown reopening for 'non-essential' shops in Sawbridgeworth

The owners of non-essential shops in Sawbridgeworth took cautious steps towards welcoming back customers after being given the green light to reopen by the Government.

There were reports of queues outside some of the bigger chain stores in England following guidelines on reopening after the coronavirus pandemic meant traders have suffered almost three months of being shuttered.

In Sawbridgeworth, things were a little more sedate as some shops in Bell Street and surrounding roads in the centre of town began awakening from their enforced slumber.

The Green Room reopened on Tuesday (36678257)
The Green Room reopened on Tuesday (36678257)

The Green Room in Bell Street reopened on Tuesday (June 16) and owner Chloe Atkinson reported that she couldn’t wait to welcome customers back, although she admitted it was a “nervous time” for business owners.

“Who knows what people’s retail habits will be in the future?” she said, adding: “Shopping local and supporting local businesses has never been so important.”

Chloe reassured people that she had spent a lot of time making sure it was safe for customers and staff. “We have hand sanitiser for customers to use as they enter and leave, long-reaching card machines, and gloves and masks for staff,” she said.

Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth.New shop - Bell St Vintage is opening. Owner Jo West. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (36678401)
Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth.New shop - Bell St Vintage is opening. Owner Jo West. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (36678401)

“We can only have a maximum of three customers in at a time, but as the store is now zoned, this may be reduced if customers all want to browse in the same zones!”

Another shop opening last Tuesday was clothes store Bell St Vintage, where owner Jo West said she was excited to be able to have people in the shop again. She did warn, however, that as the shop is “teeny tiny” only one customer at a time will be allowed.

“There will be hand sanitiser and gloves available, allowing you to browse,” said Jo. “In line with Government guidelines, clothes cannot be tried on in the shop just yet, but if you purchase anything and get home and decide it isn’t right, you're able to get a full refund or exchange.

"Any items returned to the shop will be kept separate for the advised time, steam cleaned where possible before being returned to the shop.”

Social distancing signs in The Square (36678260)
Social distancing signs in The Square (36678260)

Peyman Akhondzadeh at Tudor House Gallery in Knight Street took a slightly more cautious approach, not allowing customers into the small shop and encouraging people to use its website at www.tudorhouse.gallery.

“We’ve thought long and hard and we’ve decided not to allow people in,” said Peyman, who said staff were planning to be at the shop every day as a trial and he was happy for people to browse and look in the window. But he would prefer customers to order online for collection or free delivery in the CM21 area.

Women’s clothing shop Barbara B had a notice in its window informing customers it was opening on Monday, but access was by appointment only.

Outside the town centre, businesses at Crumps Farm in West Road urged people not to forget about them.

Melanie Rich of Enchanted Bridal Boutique posted a video of the workshops at the farm, highlighting the businesses back open again besides her own – Vicki’s Floral Designs, Nyol Creations and The Empawrium dog groomers.

Retailers in the town were given advice from town project manager Joanne Sargant, with links to information and posters to display, along with the chance to purchase a limited supply of PPE.

East Herts Council has installed social distancing signs in the town centre, and deputy mayor Cllr Greg Rattey met with district councillors and members of Herts County Council to promote the reopening.

In the meantime, cafés, restaurants, pubs, beauty salons and hairdressers in Sawbridgeworth must wait another few weeks before being given the go-ahead to reopen. There was a suggestion that some ministers were planning for a reopening on June 22, but it is widely expected July 4 will be the date.

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