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Cup & Saucer: Half Full

Independent shops; use them or lose them!

Words: Paul Chapman

Images: Cup & Saucer

Gail Hannan is a cup half full kind of person, she has energy and tenacity and is the driving force behind Cup & Saucer, a business selling speciality teas and tea products, that was established just before Christmas 2017.

Gail loves tea, and was inspired by her daughter to follow her dream and do something she’d enjoy, following redundancy from her job of 15 years.

I recently heard Gail had closed the doors on her high street shop (spoiler, she’s still selling online), and I was interested to find out more, so met her in Host Coffee, Clay Cross for breakfast... smashed avo and a flat white, which I can recommend if you’re interested!

Gail created her own tea blends at home and decided to invest £500 and see what happened ‘nothing ventured nothing gained and all that’.

“I took a market stall in Matlock, produced eight tea blends in bright bags, hampers and things to accompany making a brew, tea pots etc.” explains Gail. “It was a real success, and I sold all my stock. A great start, but it only covered my costs, with no profit. It’s hard starting up a small business.

“I had a part time job and was doing markets at the weekends, but received a welcome surprise about six months in, when I won ‘Food Producer of The Year’ award at Destination Chesterfield’s annual event, now the Love Chesterfield awards.

“This was a massive boost; it opened doors, and I started wholesaling my teas to cafes and gift shops across the county. From my small start, I needed more space, at home we were disappearing under boxes, hampers, tea leaves etc,” laughs Gail.

“In January 2019 we moved Cup & Saucer to a small, rented unit in Bolsover but within a year had outgrown the space. I moved to a retail unit, with a workspace and storage at the back, on the High Street in Clay Cross. The workplace and storage were my priority, but it came with the added benefit of a shop front. In February 2020 I hosted an open day and there were queues down the street, people loved the new shop, I was thrilled.”

We all know what’s coming next. 23 March 2020 Gail was forced to close her doors, along with many many other businesses.

“We didn’t know what lockdown would mean for our businesses,” says Gail. “I was worried but determined not to be beaten. I started selling online and offered free delivery, going to a particular area each day. The first week saw a trickle of orders, but I was talking to other local businesses, and we started to deliver more products. I contacted other local producers and asked if they would like their products in my hampers for delivery. They would drop their stock with me and I took just 20% as commission on the stock I sold.

“I was selling hampers that people sent as gifts to friends and family they couldn’t see. It went crazy. Partnering with Urban Flamingo, whose gift cards I used in the hampers, we were doing 20+ deliveries a day and posting 40+ packages.”

This continued up to Christmas 2021.

During lockdowns Gail reopened the shop but decided to relocate to ‘The Hub’ where she could share space in a tearoom, it felt like a good match and was going well.

Gail explains, “It was Christmas 2022 when things started to become strange, sales started to drop off, it felt like Christmas wasn’t going to start.

“My regular customers were still supporting me, but were spending less, shopping wisely, buying more considered products. Many of those who shopped with me through Covid simply disappeared.

“After Christmas, trade was exceptionally slow, it was quiet in store, wholesaling and online. I returned to the markets and my regular customers continued to shop with Cup & Saucer, but footfall almost disappeared.

“This meant I had to close the shop, it was a sad decision,” says Gail. “I might return to the high street at some point but right now Cup and Saucer continues online, working from The Hub, where I have a work and storage area.”

Gail’s enthusiasm and ability to build relationships has also brought together Clay Cross high street businesses to run the TotallyLocally Fiver Fest scheme, she clearly has a desire to help and ensure small businesses around her succeed and her priority is clear, she cares.

Today, Cup & Saucer trade online from the website below so if you like a fine, unique, locally blended tea, give it a try.

So, the moral I take from Gail’s story is… if you want to see a high street with thriving unique, independent business, where the business owners have a passion for what they do and breathe life into the community, their fate is in your hands! Get out there, spend your money wisely and keep them alive!

I hope Gail finds a slot back on the High Street when the time is right, and fingers crossed; her cup remains a minimum half full at all times.

Address: The Tearooms at The Hub, Broadleys, Clay Cross S45 9JN

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