Tea room weathers storm of Covid through flexibility and hard work
20th January 2022
Linda Anderson of The Kitchen in Croxley got in touch via the What’s Your Story? section of the Three Rivers Business Newsletter
When Linda Anderson spotted the former Blockbuster video rental shop in Croxley sitting empty it seemed the perfect opportunity and the natural next step for her new baking business.
It was 2014 and, since being made redundant from her career in the charity sector two years earlier, Linda’s passion for baking was overtaking her life and her kitchen.
“Whilst seeking a new role I was baking a lot,” she explained. “And after sharing some of my bakes on social media I found people were asking me to make them - initially cupcakes and then celebration cakes. Before too long this fledgling business had taken over our family home.”
With every available surface of her home’s kitchen now covered with either baking apparatus, cake mixture or trays of freshly baked goodies - Linda decided the time was right and moved her baking operation into the old Blockbuster store on Watford Road. Shelves which once displayed DVDs and film posters were soon replaced with trays of cakes and biscuits as well as tables and chairs. Watford Road was now home to The Kitchen, Croxley’s newest tearoom and bakery.
By the spring of 2020 all seemed well at The Kitchen – business at the tea room was steady and growing. Linda continued: “We were beginning to feel like an established business and part of the community. It definitely wasn't easy but we felt like we were making progress and on the right road.”
And then the dark cloud of Covid loomed, shutting the shop and the business overnight like countless others all over the UK.
“We were devastated. Thousands of pounds worth of cakes and events were cancelled. Weddings, Christenings, birthdays, hen parties, baby showers. I decided to adopt a ‘no questions asked’ approach to refunds and didn't refuse anyone. This was a tough time and very scary - no one wanted to have the additional stress of losing money over a cake or party booking.”
Recovery has been a long and challenging process, helped initially by a £10,000 grant through Three Rivers District Council, which assisted with rent. The business also had to furlough some staff.
“It has been an absolute rollercoaster. We went from complete closure to reopening for takeaway sales only from a screened off area at the door. We steered away from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which cost us money as we decided to continue with takeaways only. When we did reopen business was good but the rules around table service and pavement licencing were a headache. We were just getting back on track when another lockdown was announced.”
The business supported local and community initiatives such as Project Wingman to support healthcare workers, providing lunches for children not receiving free school meals, and local collections for the NHS. Linda also worked hard to make the business a hub for the community, becoming a dropping off point for laptops for local schools and musical instruments for charity Electric Umbrella, which collects unwanted musical instruments to support learning disabled people.
Having survived a rollercoaster two years, Linda reflected on how the challenges of Covid have affected The Kitchen and how her business has changed.
“During the worst of the pandemic we had one aim - to survive,” explained Linda. “We are relieved that to date we have done so. Going forward we have to take a more business-like approach and scrutinise our costs. Supply chain issues and shortages, rising prices, increased staffing costs (including the costs in incentivising them to stay) mean the future looks very challenging.”
If you have a business in Three Rivers, and have a story to tell, get in contact. Email firstname.lastname@example.org