A Changing World
In march 2020 we sat with the rest of Britain watching the coronavirus pandemic unfold; horrified, confused and scared at what was happening. The schools had already closed in shetland before anywhere else in Britain and we watched the news waiting to hear what our country was going to do while looking at what was happening in Spain and Italy. First came the announcement that all cafes and restaurants needed to close with immediate effect, this scared us even more with us just opening and having invested a lot into getting ready for what we had hoped for was going to be a bumper season.
We started to think of ways we could diversify. I learnt a long time ago in business you have to keep an open mind and be prepared to change things when they stop working for your business, so, we set up the cake fridge. We opened just in time for Mother's day but sadly again this had to stop when all non-essential travel was stopped in the fight against the coronavirus and although cake might feel essential it was not counted as essential! Moving on, we settled in as a family trying to get our heads around all of the changes and tried to keep things as "normal" as we could; balancing homeschooling, looking after the bairns, both mine and my husbands' parents and making sure they had everything they needed, making sure the "basics" of the business was getting done and getting ready for the start of lambing on our croft. To say the least, trying to keep things "normal" proved harder than expected.
All the time I was worrying and trying to come up with different ideas to keep our beautiful wee Tea Room and gift shop safe and protected from the economical crisis that was hitting every hospitality sector in Britain. I followed as many places as I could on Instagram and Facebook to see what other businesses were doing but I found again that one of the factors that make us unique also makes it difficult to do new things with a very small population of around 500 people on our tiny island in the North. I was limited to what I could offer. The only idea that could possibly work were takeaways which would be yet another new experience for me and my family and a novelty at that! However this would not sustain us.
This was when I had to really sit and think of my options for my beloved Tea Rooms. That is when I decided taking our gift shop online was going to be the way forward for our business. It took a bit of research in finding the right site to use and watching a few youtube videos to learn how to start building an online shop but I got there in the end! So, I ordered a lightbox online and started taking photos to upload. To start with we added just a few things from each category and in time we will be able to build on this. I have also just sent successfully some brownies and tiffin to my sisters where one lives in the south of shetland and the other in Wilshire! Making home bakes and cakes available online is something I am very keen to explore along with getting our chutneys and jams online too.
We have so many beautiful things. It still makes me sad every time I go to the tea rooms and it's empty, no visitors, no cakes, you don't get that amazing aroma of coffee and fresh scones baking from the oven when you walk in and I miss the people. One part of the Tea Rooms which I love and miss the most is meeting all the amazing people from all over the world.
I hope our online shop will make sure that at the end of all of this craziness, we will still be here, waiting to meet new people again.
Finally, I want to say that (at the end of my first ever blog!) I am grateful to have the support of my amazing family. You have all listened to my sometimes crazy ideas and not laughed at them (much!) You have been there when I've needed to cry and speak freely about my worries and concerns and understood why it's so important to me to make this work.
My little Tea Rooms, built up from serving cake in the Baltasound hall three days a week in the summer is now a beautiful, vintage style Tea Room and gift shop.