Emily Garbutt was two weeks away from going on maternity leave when her salon franchise Contemporary, on Maxwell’s Corner, Stockton, reopened after three lockdowns which devastated the hair and beauty industry.
Thankfully, Emily realised she had a great team behind her who have been working hard to help Emily recover lost income from the lockdowns by welcoming customers back.
“When it came to reopening, I felt nervous. Excited, but most of all, relieved,” Emily said.
“I know some businesses haven’t been as fortunate.
“There has been a lot of worry about general things such as having the funds to keep going at a time when we were not making any money but also, add to that being pregnant, which adds to the stressful effect!
“I came back to work for a couple of weeks then I left the salon in the hands of my team to go on maternity leave.”
Like many businesses in the town, Emily was also supported by Stockton Business Improvement District (BID) manager Jason Maxwell throughout the lockdowns and subsequent reopening.
Emily said: “From the first lockdown to the third lockdown, Stockton BID were just there as a figurative hand to hold, going around and speaking to all the businesses and making sure that they had all the equipment that they needed to reopen.
“Just knowing there was someone like Jason Maxwell to speak to about grants, furlough, safety equipment - whatever we needed as a small business - was a big help.”
Contemporary has been a firm fixture of Stockton High Street for more than 10 years.
Being on Maxwell’s Corner where The Globe is going to be, the business is in a nice prime location in terms of the future developments of Stockton High Street.
It has also built up a loyal customer base, judging from the response of customers who couldn’t wait to get back through the doors when the salon reopened after lockdown.
Emily said: “Trying to accommodate everyone who wanted to come in at the same time as abiding by social distancing rules was a challenge.
“But it was good to know that the customers come back.
“It’s also been nice to know that I’ve got a really good team behind me, supporting me and doing whatever we need to do to get the salon going again.”
During the lockdowns, Emily kept in touch with her customers by getting on social media and giving people top tips for coping with their lockdown locks!
It was a tactic that worked by keeping Contemporary in people’s minds.
During the lockdowns, Emily was also grateful that she was part of a wider network as part of the Contemporary family.
Jason Maxwell, manager of Stockton BID, said: “Like with a lot of our small businesses, it was the team around them, friendships and being part of a bigger network with Contemporary hair salons that helped Emily through.
“As well as the help from Stockton BID, she had that wider network, a community that she could link into so she didn’t feel as isolated, like those very small hair salons did.”
Unfortunately, a lot of hair salons have gone to the wall or decided to shut down but with Contemporary, as soon as customers could get back in, they came back.
“It was like a famine followed by a feast,” said Jason.
“Businesses in the health and beauty industry have been through a very uncertain time, during which they didn’t feel very confident about what was happening to their industry.
“We’re pleased to see that, since reopening, Contemporary is doing well and will continue to advocate for small businesses like Emily’s as lockdown continues to ease.”
Humans of the High Street Series 2 is a collection of heart-warming and honest stories of real businesses reopening in Stockton after the Covid-19 pandemic.
For more information, visit www.stocktonbid.co.uk