By Lee Wilkinson
Revolution Records. Great Vinyl. Great Coffee.
To say that ‘things are moving slowly’ would be an accurate assessment as to the state of play in Old Town Stevenage. That said, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found today as I wandered through main street and back streets. I chatted to some of the business owners and staff who all had slightly different thoughts on how progress was going.
I have been getting my hair cut at boys2men for the last five years, the owner told me that walk ins were slowly picking up, but the regulars seemed to be favouring the option of making an appointment. He felt that the people were still a little hesitant about venturing out and confidence might be better when we are clear on a vaccine.
The staff at Camera World had managed to navigate their way through the whole thing and remained open throughout. They had some limitation such as no demonstrations of equipment and masks must be worn in the store at all times. They had cordoned off the store and limited customers to two.
The majority of their business had been online and in the fifteen minutes that I chatted and bought a couple of items, the phone was constantly ringing. We may not think of a camera shop as essential but for people like me and the rest of those who ‘Tread the Boards’ of radio and social media, they are very much essential.
As I passed through Old Town, I noticed varying degrees of participation in keeping the virus at bay. From businesses geared up to the hilt, right through to some of the larger companies such as Tesco and Domino’s Pizza appearing to not ask their staff to wear masks or face shields at all. That was also the same for the public, it seemed, where there was an option to wear protective masks, we chose not to. Obviously, we as individuals have a choice in how we conduct our activities and if we are uncomfortable in a situation, then we only need step away.
A lot of the stores are communicating their actions on boards outside or in information posted at the entrances and on windows, though people seemed to be conducting themselves responsibly, to which end, I felt safe to be out.
It was noticeable that there are what appears to be a couple of new restaurants open at the church end of the High Street, Angelique and Lavish. These have taken the place of existing restaurants that have moved on. Sadly, there was also evidence of a few casualties, the most prominent being, ‘ASK Italian’. It appears that around 75 of their restaurants will not be reopening and as many as 1,200 jobs may be lost. It appears that the site in Old Town nearest Lister is closed but according to the website at https://www.askitalian.co.uk/discover/re-open/the site at Stevenage Leisure should be open as of now.
Other businesses such as The Practice Rooms and Rise Gym are open for business. Q-TEK, our local computer centre, and the bike stop for everything motorbikes and great coffee are also up and running.
More than anything, I wanted to draw attention to the individual businesses in Old Town and the need they have for our support.
Over the last ten years, Old Town has seen a renaissance that has created a wonderful atmosphere with unique restaurants such as
el bar de tapas, boutique hair salons and barbers, arts and collectables and of course a hefty option of pubs from family friendly to rock and roll. If they are to succeed, whether in Old Town Stevenage or elsewhere, they will only do so if we support our local businesses.
Be safe, look after yourselves and look after each other.