Marlborough’s near-deserted High Street will creak back in to life next week with many retailers planning to re-open on Monday (15 June).
These are the shops deemed ‘non-essential’ in the Government classification and they will be open for fewer hours than ‘normal’ (i.e. before lockdown) and will be limiting the number of people allowed into the premises at any one time to ensure that responsible social distancing is observed at all times.
Angus McLennan of The White Horse Bookshop explained: “We will be open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm until further notice. We will not open on Sundays.
A limited number of people will be allowed in the shop at any one time to browse the bookshop (both floors), art shop or art gallery. A member of staff will be near the door, so when you arrive at the shop, please ask if it is OK to come in. Entry to the shop will ONLY be allowed if you either use the hand sanitiser available at the front door, or put on a new pair of gloves (supplied by us). These requirements are unconditional as they are the only way for us to allow safe browsing, of any sort, anywhere in the shop.”
There is no definitive list yet as to which stores will / won’t be open on Monday but marlborough.news understands that chains such as Jigsaw and Landmark will be open along with independents such as The White Horse, Crosby & Lawrence and numerous others. Beauty Full Time will be re-opening on Tuesday between 9.30am and 4.40pm. Some, such as Valentiner will be re-opening later – probably early July. Valentiner owner Paul Collis told marlborough.news: “The Valentiner Team are not planning to re-open until sometime in July but want to say that we have greatly missed seeing all our lovely customers during the lockdown and we are looking forward to seeing you all again once we can get back to some normality”.
Marlborough Landmark manager, Toby Hassell noted that the team had used the time of closure to make changes to the store. New carpet, subtle changes to layout and overall design that would have been difficult to manage when open continuously. “We are so ready to be welcoming our customers through the door again, it’s been a long time” he commented to marlborough.news, adding that they recognised the importance of personal customer service that only a store can offer and whilst their online trading had been strong there was no substitute for direct (socially distant) contact with customers.
Prospect Hospice will be opening one of their main High Street shop (adjacent to WH Smiths) but only on Wednesdays and Fridays next week between 9am and 2pm, followed by Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in week commencing 22 June, but only as a ‘donation station’. No selling, just receiving donations. “All staff will be supplied with PPE so it will be a safe experience for members of the public when dropping goods off” explained Helen Owen of Prospect Hospice, adding “that all items donated will be quarantined for a minimum of 72 hours so will be safe when presented for sale”.
Regarding cafes and restaurants, some are currently open for take-aways – The Food Gallery and The Marlborough (formerly The Sun Inn, adjacent to St Peter’s) in The High Street and The Lamb in The Parade are three that offer this type of service, a situation that is unlikely to change until the Government advise it is acceptable to do so.
Rumours have swirled regarding the future of Marlborough’s Rick Stein restaurant. A recent report on Cornwall Live claimed that the future of three Rick Stein restaurants, one of which was the Marlborough site, was ‘under consultation’.
When asked, MD Ian Fitzgerald told marlborough.news: “Our restaurant business along with so many others is trying to deal with an unprecedented crisis, with no knowledge of when, or if, the country will return to normal. We are concentrating on the long term survival of the company by restructuring, decentralising and cutting costs. We may also need to change how our restaurants run due to social distancing. We are currently in conversation with our teams as to the best way forward. Final decisions cannot be made until that process is complete.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Rick Stein, next week’s re-openings represent a small but significant step towards creating a bit of consumer confidence and re-establishing Marlborough as the safe and attractive place to shop that it was before.