Shop Local: South Woodford businesses get creative to survive pandemic

Tim Smith and Karen Dunn, owners of Creative Biscuit ceramic cafe have started a takeaway home deliv

Tim Smith and Karen Dunn, owners of Creative Biscuit ceramic cafe have started a takeaway home delivery kit to reach their customers during the pandemic. - Credit: Karen Dunn

Long-running businesses in South Woodford are finding creative ways to reach their loyal customers but fear another lockdown.

Owner Karen said it's been nice to deliver the kits to her customers and see people besides her fami

Owner Karen said it's been nice to deliver the kits to her customers and see people besides her family during lockdown. - Credit: Karen Dunn

When the first lockdown hit Karen Dunn, who has run Creative Biscuit ceramic cafe in George Lane with her partner Tim Smith for the past 10 years, decided if people couldn’t come in to paint their own ceramics they could try to figure out a way to get it to them.

They launched takeaway painting kits which she delivers so people can paint their own ceramics at home and then she picks them up to fire in the store.

Some parents have started doing painting birthday parties over Zoom through the pandemic. Picture: K

Some parents have started doing painting birthday parties over Zoom through the pandemic. - Credit: Karen Dunn

Karen told the Recorder that while she has a newfound appreciation for delivery drivers, dropping off and picking up the kits has been a nice way to interact with her customers during the lockdown periods and beyond.

She said: “Though we’ve lost a really important few weeks leading into Christmas the customers have been amazing.

“Some parents have set up Zoom birthday painting parties for their kids and a lot of adults have said it’s been a nice mindful activity to get through the stressful times.”

The art shop Room 22 in George Lane and sister shop The Art Shop in Wanstead started offering a click-and-collect service for the first time to help people get their Christmas shopping done safely once lockdown allowed them to re-open.

Carly Hamilton (left), Michele Charnley (centre) and Julian Abbott from Abbott's Travel.

Carly Hamilton (left), Michele Charnley (centre) and Julian Abbott from Abbott's Travel. - Credit: Julian Abbott

Abbotts Travel, which has been in George Lane for more than 60 years, had a very rough year but business has returned with customers feeling positive now that there is a vaccine and things might return to normal.


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Owner Julian Abbott said: “A lot of this year has been very tough and it’s been spent getting our customers back home who were stranded when lockdown first hit and then getting customers refunds.” 

News of the vaccine has kick-started business and he said there is a pent-up demand for people to make travel plans next summer to have something to look forward to get through a long winter.

Abbotts Travel has been in business in George Lane for more than 60 years. Picture: Julian Abbott

Abbotts Travel has been in business in George Lane for more than 60 years. - Credit: Julian Abbott

Julian said he had to furlough two staff members and made one person redundant but
since he has a loyal customer base who have been coming in for generations they’re in a better position than other travel agents.

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Julian added: “We’ve embraced social media to spread the message that we’re okay and not going anywhere.”

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