Since the pandemic occurred my business has been affected but I am still here, staying positive and hopeful for the future.
My name is Derrick, I am a 57-year-old man and the proud owner of a small business called The Boathouse Cafe and Bar which is located in the heart of Barking and Dagenham.
Since COVID 19 became a pandemic in the UK, I didn’t realise how much it would affect me until it impacted my Boathouse Cafe and Bar. I was told by the government that I had to shut my place down. I had to stop for a second and think of how to answer some questions I didn’t think of before. How would I continue the business? What should I do next? Emotionally, I was shocked and heartbroken. However, what hurt more was the number of people who might be in worse conditions and than myself.
I opened my Boathouse Cafe and Bar nearly five years ago. From the moment I opened it, it became the place for a lot of people to relax and communicate with each other. I had a great number of people who visited me. It never ceases to amaze me that we have such a wide range of customers.
In the past year business started to boom and in March I got an award from the Federation of Small Business (FSB) for best business in the community. My girlfriend and I worked hard at making a difference in our community and to create a place that was valuable to others which brought them so much happiness and that was good enough for me.
Our community is important to me so, during the pandemic, I packed as much food from my cafe that I knew would go to waste if I left it in there and donated all of it to my local food bank.
Going out during the pandemic is difficult. I am classified as a vulnerable citizen because I am diabetic. This means I need to be careful whenever I need to go out. I always wear my face mask and gloves. When I go shopping, I look for the least packed places, and that might take me two to three stops before I find one store.
I have been keeping myself busy by repainting the cafe and working on new ideas, as to what to do once I am open again. I am lucky as I have some support from the government as well. Most importantly, I am thankful to all my customers who have gotten in touch with me, asking when I will be open and telling me they miss the place. I never expected so much love and support but it just shows how much value the power of connecting and building relationships bring to everything.
The experience overall has proven to be challenging in its way. However, I am a very positive person, and that is what keeps me going. If there is anything I want others to know, it is to be patient. I have been affected, but I am not planning to lose hope or give up. We have all got to stay positive, keep ourselves busy and know that we can get through anything together.