How Norwich’s smallest coffee shop is thriving even with social distancing
- Credit: Archant
For almost every shop, restaurant or café, social distancing has presented challenges.
For Fika, Norwich’s smallest coffee shop, though, the difficulties could seem overwhelming.
But owner Mark Lawrence says the business has seen a strong start since reopening at the end of July, after closing on March 20 - a year after first opening on March 21, 2019.
The pint-sized coffee shop, on Wensum Street, which was previously Artel and The Window, is said to be the smallest coffee shop in Norwich, leaving little room for distancing.
But Norwich-born Mr Lawrence said his two tables indoors were able to remain in line with the rules, and that other changes had been made, such as removing sugar bowls and water carafes.
“It’s been really good, albeit different,” he said. “The offices are still mainly furloughed or working from home, so the demographic and timings have changed, but the support from the community has been great.
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“You usually have your regulars and get to know faces, and you can almost judge which day of the week it is by who you’re seeing. People aren’t yet back into their old habits but nothing’s normal yet.
“I think anybody who feels uncomfortable in a space as small as this isn’t going to be coming out. People need to do what they are happy with - I’m just trying to create a space in which people are comfortable.
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“I reopened with no expectations in terms of what there would be footfall wise and I have been pleasantly surprised.”
Mr Lawrence opted to stay closed in lockdown, rather than reopening for takeaways.
He started delivering fresh coffee to people’s doorsteps around Norfolk, both to keep the business ticking over and to stay connected with customers.
“It gave some people a sense of normality and it allowed me to keep the community aspect,” he said. “I could have distanced conversations - I’d end up spending more time talking on the driveways and pavements.”
He said while he had seen familiar faces on his travels, it also introduced him to a new group of customers.
Mr Lawrence took the plunge to open Fika in March last year and said, despite a challenging few months, that it had been the “best decision I’ve ever made”.
He said the business was all about the customers, and that its petite size meant conversation flowed without anyone feeling “intrusive”, saying business deals had been struck and friendships made there.
“The whole point was the community it would create,” he said.