Just days after gracing the pages of The Oxford Times with a wonderful food review, new business owners Simon and Samantha Stonehouse of The Black Boy in Headington, were ordered, along with thousands of others by the government, to close their pub until further notice.
Husband and wife team, Simon and Sam took over The Black Boy last July after an extensive and costly refurbishment and started to trade in December. Things were going in the right direction for the couple and since opening the team have worked hard to bring the pub back into the heart of the community. “Just before the Prime Minister announced that all pubs, clubs and restaurants had to close we had already started to put the motions in place to set up a community shop. We could see an imminent closure and after a meeting with our head chef, Jonny Copper about what we could do to bring in some form of revenue to help pay those bills that can’t be ignored we turned the front of the pub in to a shop and started to offer a food delivery service”.
Link to recent press article: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18358058.black-boy-headington-oxford-reopens-community-shop-takeaway/
The shop stocks fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat along with wine and other essential household items like toilet paper and flour. Orders for the food delivery service come via the pub’s website and are delivered within a 20-mile radius of Oxford. The shop constantly has a flurry of customers due to daily social media posts and word of mouth recommendations. The pub has been supported by the local press who have done several articles on their initiative as well as a front page story about the couple’s children gifting Easter eggs to a local care home for the elderly using their pocket money they earnt from working in the shop. With the word quickly spreading, the shop and delivery service has been a successful short-term enterprise for the couple.
“We were just getting in the swing of things and had started to invite press in to review us, bookings for the hotel were strong and we had started to build a good rapport with our locals. Having the shop open six-days a week enables us to serve more residents that we never got the opportunity to meet and every person that comes into the shop we stop and chat to. We try and brighten up their day as much as they brighten up ours. We tell them about the exciting things we have planned for when we do eventually re-open and with the food deliveries, we are able to capture data so we can keep in contact with everyone when things return to normal.
Although the pub is closed Simon and Sam are making sure their community can access what they need, “Every day we receive such wonderful feedback about the shop and service we are offering, from thank-you cards to emails and regular comments on our social media channels ” says Simon. “We are open 10.00am until 5pm Monday to Wednesday and then to 9.00pm Thursday to Saturday when we offer our Takeaway menu. We are in the hub of NHS land with the John Radcliffe Hospital around the corner as well as the Churchill and Nuffield.
As we know many people are still having to work and staying open later means they can access the shop to get the essentials they need or pick up dinner on their way home. We certainly feel what we are doing is of value to people and keeps us mentally in check too in these strange times!
One thing we have found that is in much demand is flour, we sell around 450 kilos a week and people are buying as much as they can to make bread, pasta and cakes. The Takeaway menu we run towards the end of the week has been well received, we start taking orders from 3.00pm and the phone doesn’t stop ringing until we close the kitchen at 9.00pm. We have also set up Deliveroo, popular for those that are unable to leave their home or perhaps live a little further away from Headington. We started to do fish and chips on a Friday and on the first night sold over 60 portions so quickly decided that we should leave it permanently on the menu. I think people want a bit of normality back, so many people we speak to have had their world literally turned upside down and having something as simple as a fish and chip supper on a Friday evening after work brings a little bit of normality and familiarity back.”
Despite the pub being closed, Simon and Sam are hugely confident they will ride the storm and come out the other side stronger than ever. We have furloughed most of the team which Simon says “was made easier through the support that Rob, Martin and the rest of the team at Everards gave us. Everards continually offer huge amounts of guidance and are always at the end of the phone for us, I am not going to lie it has been hugely stressful for us, but their support is so reassuring.
Simon and Sam are using this time to deepen those new connections they have built with their community and helping to get them, their team, and their community through these times.
We find ourselves in exceptional times and our independent business owners are showing their exceptional qualities, like Simon who is supporting his community in every way he can. Do you think you could be at the hub of your community and adapt in challenging times like Simon and Sam?
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Everards of Leicestershire is an independent, family business based in Leicestershire. Chairman, Richard Everard OBE DL is the fifth generation of his family to run the business since it was established by William Everard in 1849. Everards are proud to work with lots of local businesses and causes – from Leicester Tigers and Leicester Riders, for which Tiger is the Official Beer, to supporting local charities such as Warning Zone, Age UK and PROSTaid.
Tiger Copper Ale (4.2 per cent ABV) is Everards’ most famous beer and is the official beer of Leicester Tigers. On the bar alongside Tiger you will find Golden Hop (3.5 per cent ABV), Beacon Hill (3.8 per cent ABV), Sunchaser (4.0 per cent ABV) and Old Original (5.2 per cent ABV) available in many Everards pubs. In addition, an innovative range of Limited-Edition beers are released throughout the year. Recently the selection included beers such as Small Beer No.1, People’s Captain Short and Stout and Session IPA No.3, alongside favourites such as Sleighbell and Tighthead.
Everards own more than 175 pubs across the Midlands, all run as independent businesses.
For further information please visit www.everards.co.uk , search for ‘Everards’ on Facebook or find @Everards1849 on Twitter and Instagram