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‘It was as busy as the Christmas rush’ - how this farm shop adapted during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 08:53 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:32 18 August 2020

Charlotte and Oliver Gurney, owners of White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Charlotte and Oliver Gurney, owners of White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Like countless other small businesses, White House Farm had to adapt quickly to weather the storm of coronavirus. But owner CHARLOTTE GURNEY says lockdown also brought silver linings – including a rise in farm shop spending and renewed interest in the farm’s commercial business units.

During lockdown, White House Farm's cafe become a retail depot for a new online order service. Picture: Oliver GurneyDuring lockdown, White House Farm's cafe become a retail depot for a new online order service. Picture: Oliver Gurney

While the end of March seems but a distant memory, queues around our courtyard and panic buying are images that will never leave me.

It was as busy as the Christmas rush but without the preparation as our customers prepared for lockdown. Almost overnight, we were forced to create an online ordering system, allowing us to compile customer shopping lists for a “no social contact” pickup as we dropped the box next to each customer’s car.

Things quickly escalated and we began packing 80-100 boxes a day, offering a seemingly unique service in Norfolk.

While we run our own café, farm shop and butchery, we have also been responsible for a host of other businesses including a hairdresser, beautician, dance studio, interiors shop and children’s nursery.

White House Farm has seen renewed interest in its business units as other small firms explored relocation options during lockdown. Picture : ANTONY KELLYWhite House Farm has seen renewed interest in its business units as other small firms explored relocation options during lockdown. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Designing a “community hub” has always been the vision, but as we emerge from a turbulent time, with autumn fast approaching, the collaborative ethos has never been stronger. Social media pages have flourished as customers were brought to a halt and had time to watch their local farm.

A host of good things have come from the epidemic. We’ve seen our average spend increase, camaraderie with suppliers and customers alike has been heartwarming, and with the online facility, we’ve even learnt a few more customers’ names. Above all, I like to think people value their local businesses and their quirky personalities like never before.

At times, the challenges felt insurmountable with a young family and no childcare, but family have helped remotely thanks to an online system designed by my brother.

While we were the only business on the farm to remain open, we also felt the need to fly the flag. By being ever-present, silver linings have come as we have received new interest from businesses looking to relocate.

They seem attracted by the brand, community ethos and location, on the edge of the city. With the luxury of free parking and critically, space, The Dance Studio has led open air classes under marquees and the café made use of picnic benches stretching out on to the grass.

While we might be a barometer for local trade as we ride the storm, I shall keep adhering to our “keep a-troshin” sign, erected to cheer customers that arrive at White House Farm.

• Charlotte Gurney and her husband Oliver run the café, farm shop and business hub at White House Farm in Sprowston.


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