At the time of lockdown I had and still have two barber shops one in Bracebridge Heath and one in Navenby, as well as a hair salon, Urban Angels in Navenby. It was from Urban angels that we set up Urban Gelato and milkshakes. We had made the decision Saturday morning to close the shops, prior to the Monday 23rd lockdown.
After closing the shops, I spent the first initial days going through highs and lows, wondering where my 18 years of hard work had disappeared to whilst questioning whether it would survive the coming months. I then enjoyed 4 weeks of sunshine, my home and garden and some amazing dog walks. By week 5 I had a week on the sofa looking at my phone, news on TV and was quite lazy. I then thought I can’t do this for another 8 weeks and look back at my time that was wasted.
I started to wonder what I could do with my empty shops. At first I didn’t know what to do, but I started to look at what you could do rather than what you couldn’t do. I went through a range of things I could sell, not wanting to tread on any toes of other businesses trying to survive the pandemic.
I discovered that my A1 shop licence enabled me to sell take away cold food, I then chatted to a friend who was taking her 3 year old twin girls for a walk to ‘see the bear’, apparently he was fishing today, yesterday he was driving a car. This was their daily routine to get out of the house and have a target objective. It then all started to click into place, cold food, take away, shop entrance, destination, and purpose.
I then put it out there on the village Facebook page to gauge interest and objections. The idea was met with full enthusiasm and so much positivity it was overwhelming. I started to look at ice cream, but quickly decided that if I was going to do this then I wanted to offer the village the very best. I still had to wait for the announcement in 10 days to see when the earliest date that salons could reopen.
In this time I sought the knowledge, suppliers who could make the Artisan Gelato for us, along with sourcing of the Gelato machine/freezer and everything else involved for the running of this.
The initial date for reopening was moved back, meaning July 4th was the earliest date we could reopen. I therefore set about contacting the suppliers and arranging dates for delivery, I had everything delivered and in place by Sunday afternoon. Gelato freezer was full and ready to go.
Following this we decided to have a training day on the Monday prior to the Tuesday opening and took this opportunity to gather all our staff from the 3 shops along with their families, to see how social distancing would be. This proved to be a very successful exercise and was a great way for the team to see each other from a distance and reconnect.
On Tuesday morning the new sign was in place and transformed the front of the salon, we were now officially Urban Gelato & Milkshakes. We now had 56 days to get a return on our money. We decided that if the investment was 6K and we had a return of 4K then it was a loss but a gain for sanity. The worst result would mean we were out of pocket and have a lot of Gelato to give away.
As the days turned into weeks, it became apparent that we couldn’t just stop the Gelato after our initial pop up stint. We started to look at ways to save the Gelato, exploring the potential to use available empty shops, a specially made pod, van etc. We then thought of the idea to move the hair salon and then turn the salon into a Gelato and deli so it could survive the winter months. We again looked at a variety of options which has lead us onto another property to move the salon to. Having got our heads around this, we when then approached by the owners of the village tea rooms, who said they were thinking about selling. This led to us meeting and in under 3 weeks we had purchased the business and now have an ideal location to house our Gelato.
The only issue with this was that we now also wanted to keep the tea rooms and the Gelato. We are now looking at moving the kitchen upstairs, moving Gelato from the doorway into the kitchen area with a serving hatch and bringing the Tea rooms back, serving Navenby breakfasts, using locally sourced produce, sour dough with smashed avocado and poached egg etc. We are working with a coffee company who use organic and sustainable coffee with a great brand and taste behind them, alongside serving light lunches.
Urban Gelato & Milkshakes
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