‘People used to drive to Norwich - now they come here’ - Dereham eco store on moving just before Covid

Hawthorn & Bee in Dereham offers a wide variety of goods for sustainable living. Picture: Noah Vicke

Hawthorn & Bee in Dereham offers a wide variety of goods for sustainable living. Picture: Noah Vickers - Credit: Archant

When Helen Winterbone took the plunge by moving to a new home in Dereham at the start of the year, she can hardly have predicted what was ahead.

The 49-year-old had previously sold pet-related goods from her shop Treat Your Pet Box on a lane off Wellington Road since 2016.

At the start of 2020, she decided to reorient the shop to provide gifts for sustainable living and renamed it Hawthorn & Bee.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

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Hawthorn & Bee has been a victim of Covid’s impact, despite the business being on the up before it hit.

“We’re a little bit out of the way here,” said Ms Winterbone, “so people have to find me. I’d been putting things up on Facebook and customers had started to discover me. It was going really well - up until March.”

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Ms Winterbone closed with the onset of lockdown but made some home deliveries via requests on social media, before reopening in June.

“In the short term, we’re hoping we won’t have to close. It’s worrying seeing other shops in the town shutting.”

Ms Winterbone said that she would happily take one of the vacant spots, if the rent wasn’t so expensive.

She said: “This is the problem - I really want to be somewhere more central in Dereham, but the rents are too high, and then there’s the risk we’d have to close again if there was another lockdown.”

Ms Winterbone added that when she opened her original shop four years ago ‘there were shops all the way along the lane’.

“Now it’s just me and Discovery Records,” she said.

“We’re all that’s left, so we don’t get the people coming down that we did.”

With locally sourced products from across East Anglia, Ms Winterbone said her customers most often come in to fill up their own containers with shampoo, body wash, and washing-up liquid, saving tonnes of plastic every year.

She said: “I get quite a lot of people who say they used to have to go to Norwich before I opened, and driving to Norwich in a car to get those things slightly counteracts the benefits of buying them in the first place!”

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