'There’s a great community spirit here': Shining a spotlight on The Nook's essential traders in Lockdown 3
“There’s a great community spirit here,” says Madeline Duncan, one of The Nook’s independent traders still permitted to open in Lockdown 3.
The Nook in Prince Edward Road has seen many changes over the decades, with the loss of its banks and an influx of chains, but the past year has been the most testing for traders.
As part of our Support Local campaign, we visited one of South Tyneside’s longest shopping parades to find out how its essential traders are faring in Lockdown 3.
Until the easing of restrictions as part of the phased reopening of the country, which will see non-essential shops reopen no earlier than April 12, only The Nook’s essential shops can currently ring their tills.
Among them is Madeline who opened Duncan’s News in an empty unit just before the first Lockdown last year. It’s been a baptism of fire for a new business, but the former NHS secretary says she’s been delighted with the response from the community.
"The Nook has made me so welcome, there’s a great community spirit here. All the other traders look after each other as well,” she said. As well as a newsagents, Duncan’s includes the Cleadon Park Post Office counter, which has proved a lifeline for locals.
"People really appreciate the Post Office being here, especially with all the banks gone,” said Madeline. “During the pandemic it’s a way for people to send parcels to loved ones, and it’s really taught me the business too.”
Graham Houghton has been at the helm of Budget Pet Supplies for 15 years and says it’s important for people to support their local high streets to keep the heart of their communities alive.
As well as the store being open for pet supplies, Graham delivers to people who are isolating or who don’t feel comfortable shopping so that their pets can still be well fed in the pandemic.
He said: "Footfall has definitely dropped and it’s nowhere near as busy as it was 10 years ago. When I came here you had four greengrocers, banks, a better selection of shops. Now there’s a lot more takeaways, but it’s still important to support the local independents.”
Husband and wife team Raffaele and Kerry Mereu opened their Caffe Di Bella five years ago and, after staying closed in the first Lockdown, reopened it for takeaway for the third Lockdown.
Their great selection of takeaway cakes and coffees have proved a welcome slice of normality for their regular customers.
"From a business point of view only being able to do takeaway is not ideal, but it really helps to keep us connected with our customers,” said Raffaele.
Kerry added: “There’s not many coffee shops around here, so we decided to open in this Lockdown to offer that service and people seem to really appreciate it. They want to shop local.”
PriceWise Bargains has also been winning praise from its customers. The one stop shop, selling everything from cleaning products and hardware to ornaments and toiletries, has been open throughout the Lockdowns.