Six months ago we...
...closed the studio to the public. We closed before the government told us to. I wondered if I was going batshit looking at the news but I made the right call.
We still haven't reopened to the public. Six months ago today was the last time any of you stepped inside our place. We had to make some tough choices.
[Image description - the Countess wears a face mask in the studio. In the background are skeins of yarn and craft books.]
We made the decision to focus on online ordering (once Royal Mail sorted themselves out and made conditions for their employees safer) and wholesale. I have never wanted to do wholesale before but I whipped out our Brexit Plan so we were prepared.
We don't have as many staff right now, two left as they were students and temporary, so we needed to prioritise how we get through this and we decided that it was safer and more economically viable to concentrate on production than face-to-face contact that leaves us exposed.
Today, the studio doesn't look like it used to. Most of the stock is on the ground floor and isn't wheelchair accessible at the moment; it will be again once we reopen.
We are hoping to reopen to the public by appointment only in November and December but of course, once again, the news about the pandemic is kinda worrying. Manchester has barely been out of lockdown since March and it's grinding us all down. Plus there's talk about extending shielding that possibly includes me and trying to run a business over the past six months has been pretty fkn difficult.
[Image description - Countess and Blazin'Squad Haydn stand outside the studio window and door in Manchester city centre.]
If we do reopen in November, this is how it'll be, subject to change and if I'm not shielding:
- appointment only,
- ground floor only rather than retail across two floors; we've already brought all the stock to the ground floor,
- you'll be encouraged to wear a mask if you are able to wear one but you certainly won't be demanded to (we won't make you feel awkward). We're members of The Sunflower Scheme for hidden disabilities so if you want a lanyard, let us know.
- music without lyrics will play quietly because one thing I've found with mask-wearing is how much I rely on lip-reading and how I can't hear people speaking if there is lyrical music playing. So I guess no more shouty metal music for a bit!
- on a similar subject, a hearing-loop is installed and we can make use of voice-to-text tech if that helps you,
- no customer toilet. The reality is that we're short-staffed, some with vulnerable conditions, and having to sanitise the bathroom after someone has used it is putting us at risk. I've thought really long and hard about this one because I'm aware of how many with hidden disabilities need a bathroom when out and about but I also need to do a risk assessment for us too,
- we'll wear face shields always and if able to, a face mask too.
So these are our current thoughts, always subject to change but we do miss seeing you here in the studio.
If you've been to any shops and have seen them doing pandemic related things in a way that has impressed you, let us know in our online community UNDERGROUND.