Open for Business! Cornwall’s companies are bigger and better than ever before

Tregarton Park - Robert Hicks

Tregarton Park - Robert Hicks - Credit: Archant

Cornwall is famed for its independent boutique businesses – and after months of enforced closure – they are back bigger and better than before.

Poppy Treffy facemasks

Poppy Treffy facemasks - Credit: Archant

It’s almost six months since Boris Johnson announced lockdown. It’s been a tricky and testing period for everyone, not least the local businesses that suddenly had to shut their premises or figure out new ways of working. Business owners and managers across the county tell is about adjusting to the new norm and how the period has provided a time for reflection, reassessment and even offered an opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial zeal.

Karen Baxter is the General Manager of Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes

“Reopening a hotel after three months of closure and going from zero to 100 in a matter of 48 hours was incredible really, but the team has done extremely well. But because of all the preparation we did in advance, it hasn’t taken as long I thought to adjust to the new normal. Whatever we’ve done behind the scenes, we’re trying to make sure that it doesn’t impact on what the Tresanton experience should be. There are advanced cleaning protocols in the rooms, we’ve reduced the amount of covers in the restaurant and all the team are wearing masks or visors throughout the hotel. Our wonderful yacht, Pinuccia, has unfortunately not gone into the water this year due to social distancing, and larger events can’t take place but our beach club has opened just for resident guests. I think they’re relishing the fact it’s a quiet area of the hotel, somewhere they can go and relax on the sun lounger and watch the world go by. We have so many regular guests, but also new guests who might typically go abroad but have taken the opportunity to staycation. I think people are just so happy to be able to get away, to have somebody else do their cooking and cleaning and bring things to them. It’s a luxury that none of us have truly had for the last few months so if anything, it’s enhanced the experience.’

Poppy Treffry sells handmade homewares and gifts. She has a studio in Penzance and a shop in St Ives.

Hotel Tresanton

Hotel Tresanton - Credit: Archant

“Through the shop closing and wholesale orders being cancelled, we lost about 80 per cent of the business overnight. Fortunately, the website has done well. It’s a part of the business we’ve always wanted to improve, but never knew how to, and now it’s grown massively. We’d done two trade shows at the beginning of the year with a sending date of middle of March, so the shelves were bulging with stock, which meant I didn’t need to make anything until a few weeks ago.

I furloughed everyone and just cracked on with it. It was like going back 16 years, packing orders again. I also launched an online embroidery course, which had an amazing response. I think people liked the structure and sense of community and I’m going to organise a Christmas one. Customers also started asking me about face masks, which took a bit of development, but we’re now struggling to keep up with demand. I’d normally be launching a new collection in September but haven’t had any time to do any design work so it will probably be spring before I get onto new products. But the shop in St Ives is open now and seems to be working well. I’m not relying on solely on that though, or the wholesale customers. Our online presence saw us through the first lockdown. I feel people just wanted to keep us going and we feel a stronger relationship with our customers because of their support.”

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Robert Hicks is the proprietor of Tregarton Park a family-owned touring and camping park near Mevagissey

Poppy Treffry

Poppy Treffry - Credit: Archant

“There are different layouts, staffing levels and operational styles at each site but we’re fortunate we’ve been able to open all our facilities. There was a slight nervousness to opening because there was no quiet period where you could test the new ways to operate but I’m pleased to say it’s all worked. There’s no overcrowding. We’ve also introduced additional cleaners, screens and signage, adopted a one-way system through the toilet facilities, reduced playground hours and the swimming pool’s on a booking system. What we want is for guests on their journey back home to say, ‘Well, that was like a normal holiday, not a prison camp’ and guests seem to be very happy and like what we’ve done. The phone’s been ringing off the hook with people trying to pitch but we’re running at reduced occupancy. It affects the bottom line, but you sleep soundly at night if you’ve offered everyone as safe an environment as you can; everything else is irrelevant. We’d normally close at the end of September but we’re going through to the end of October and when we close the gates, everything will remain in place until we finally put this problem to bed.”

Sally Peterson co-owns The Roundhouse and Capstan Gallery in Sennen

“We were extremely grateful we were able to furlough staff. When we reopened, we asked people to wear face coverings even though it wasn’t mandatory and have hand gel and arrows pointing where to go. We’re also not letting as many people in. In a funny sort of way, people are having a better experience because of it. They get to wander and look at things in a quieter environment. We normally have the two galleries open. The downstairs one is more for fine art and the upstairs for local arts and crafts, but when we first opened, we just mixed everything up and found that that works very well. We’ve had to simplify and that’s been beneficial to how we’re running the business. I think buying art online is tricky, but we’re aware we need to do more... you do have to be more inventive. People are being quite cautious and hanging on to their pennies for the moment, but we’re hoping we’ll be able to catch up and still have a reasonable season despite everything.”

Poppy Treffry

Poppy Treffry - Credit: Archant

Giles Eustice runs Trevaskis Farm park, restaurant and market shop near Hayle

‘The easy thing would’ve been for us to shut the doors and furlough everybody, but we couldn’t and didn’t want to do that. We’ve been open right through lockdown because we knew people would need feeding, especially those self-isolating who would struggle to get food through normal channels. We mobilised every van we had available and went delivering and set up collections as well. We rejigged office space, retrained staff, and turned the restaurant into a temporary warehouse. We developed a new online shopping site as we knew we needed to simplify and speed up the system. It’s been an eye-opener for people who might view farm shops as expensive, or not stock everything they need. We arranged a new warehouse building so we could reopen the restaurant in July, but with far fewer tables, which has made the environment inside very calm, and it’s now table service for all the incredible desserts we’re known for. We’ve also invested in the patio area, so people have the option to sit outside.”

This article first appeared in Cornwall Life September issue, View our latest subscription offers here.

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