12 exciting new businesses to discover when lockdown restrictions ease
- Credit: Supplied by Lauren Denny
Now may seem a brave time to launch or take over a new business, but 12 entrepreneurs across East Cambridgeshire and the Fens have recently taken the plunge.
And as the lockdown restrictions begin to ease, they’re certainly looking forward to welcoming customers and, in some cases, meeting them in person for the first time.
The businesses range from quirky shops to sports facilities, from pub takeovers to restaurant and café launches. There’s a huge, and wonderful, variety to explore.
So as well as our favourite businesses opening their doors, here’s a selection of new places to check out and enjoy across the area.
1. Cow on the Ice. 32A High Street, Ely.
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It has been such a busy time for Eva Starzyk as she prepares to open her first shop, hopefully on April 17.
She has been a familiar face at Ely Markets for some time now.
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With the popularity of her stall growing from strength to strength and a successful online presence, it made sense to progress to her own premises.
A professional graphic designer, Eva designs and produces most of her stock. These range from striking t-shirts and bold prints, to greetings cards, quirky gifts and toys.
There’s clearly a Scandinavian feel to Cow on the Ice, which isn’t surprising as Eva says she embraces the Hygge philosophy when it comes to her outlook on life.
This is the feeling of cozy contentment and enjoyment everyone can have from the simpler things in life and the nature around us.
Eva said: “I’ve received such a warm welcome in Ely and I absolutely love being here.
“The place and the people are wonderful, and I love how everyone brings their doggies out with them! It’s a wonderful community.”
2. Sushi and Salad. 9 High Street Passage, Ely.
Sushi and Salad wasn't intended to be a takeout spot for Japanese food.
But William Hunt and his wife Juliana Correa Rodrigues began offering the takeout menu when it opened in early February – and described its success as “phenomenal”.
William said: “We have been made to feel so welcome in Ely, and have had such a warm reception so far.
“We really wanted Sushi and Salad to be a cute and friendly restaurant in Ely, somewhere with a very social atmosphere.
“But the lockdown forced us to rethink things and adapt our offering slightly and the takeout meals have been phenomenally successful.”
Juliana leads the food side of the business and the menu features a range of Japanese meals including a wide selection of sushi, salads and hot options.
Originally from Sao Paulo, the Brazilian city hosts the largest Japanese population outside of Japan and the culture influenced her cooking and taste in food.
When Juliana and William saw the former Burrows Bookshop premises was going to be available, it was the perfect opportunity to open their own place.
The government has said restaurants can start hosting customers indoors from May 17. When it is possible to open Sushi and Salad, the takeout service will still continue.
William said: “Sushi and Japanese food is the perfect meal to enjoy outside as a picnic, especially when you’re surrounded by the beautiful city of Ely.”
3. The Coffee Pot. 10 Market Hill, Chatteris.
The Coffee Pot in Chatteris hadn’t been open a fortnight when the country was plunged into lockdown at Christmas.
But that didn’t stop the team from offering customers delicious takeaway food and drinks – and posting photographs of their stunning cakes on social media.
Paninis and milkshakes have proven to be popular, and vegan options are also available.
Lauren Denny works alongside managers Natasha Leeding, and her husband Nick who all take on much of the homemade bakes and serving.
They are also joined by Natasha Vowes who completes the core team at The Coffee Pot.
Discounts are available for NHS staff, military personnel and students. Loyalty cards are also available where customers collect five stamps and get a sixth drink for free.
As the government restrictions ease, Lauren does err on the side of caution when discussing whether the shop will expand and offer a seating area.
She said: “At the moment, we wouldn’t have the space to have customers inside and I feel we still need to be very cautious about the virus.
“We may apply for a pavement licence and have outside tables but we will have to see.
“Very soon, we will be looking at expanding the takeaway menu to include items like jacket potatoes – and I think that will be our next focus for now.”
In Ely, Tom's Cakes is another popular spot which opened towards the end of last year and has received a warm reception.
4. The Acre pub, 15 Acre Road, March.
The Acre will be opening its doors with new owners on April 12 – basically as soon as pubs can start serving outdoors.
Laura Kelly, her brother Tom and their uncle Sean Brown have taken on the popular March spot and have been renovating the place during lockdown.
They’ve expanded the garden area so customers can feel safe outdoors and have freshened up the interior ready for when the measures are relaxed further.
While the family team have never run a pub before and this is a completely new sector for them, Laura says they’re ready and looking forward to taking on the challenge.
She said: “We’re ecstatic to be in The Acre, and really excited to be opening the doors later this month.
“It’s such a lovely pub and we will make sure everyone who comes here will feel very welcome.
“We’re very aware of all the Covid-19 measures and our brewery Greene King has been very supportive every step of the way.
“Everything will be in place to ensure our customers will be safe here.”
Laura added: “I think people are very ready now to get out and socialise again with their families and friends, so please come and say hello."
5. The Locomotive pub, 257 Lynn Road, Wisbech.
The new owner of The Locomotive in Wisbech has been quick to identify that the town would like a family-friendly entertainment venue – and is keen to provide it.
Wendy Marshall has been running pubs for 30 years and has moved to the Fens from Liverpool with her other half Toni especially for the opportunity.
They were handed the keys on January 16, and have spent the entire time during lockdown renovating the pub and preparing the beer garden for when outside drinking is allowed.
Wendy said: “It has been hard work, but I know it’s going to be worth it. We can see there's so much opportunity and potential in The Locomotive.
“When we first came here, I asked people what’s needed in Wisbech. Everyone has said somewhere that provides entertainment, and I’m keen to offer that.
“So there will be live music, karaoke nights, discos and we’ll also be able to accommodate events like birthday parties when those can return.
“In fact, Toni and I plan on having our wedding reception here when we can as ours was cancelled twice last year!
“I’m also keen to make The Locomotive a family-friendly pub too.”
Wendy has also taken on four part-time bar staff who live locally, one of whom used to work for the previous owners.
6. Cantab Catering, available at Ely City Golf Club, 107 Cambridge Road.
Ely City Golf Club has undergone a massive renovation during lockdown – and Cantab Catering will be looking after the food being served to members.
For Sebastian Barker, the catering company’s owner, this is a new and exciting move.
He has worked hard over the years to build a business which is used to preparing food for large events, sporting fixtures and festivals.
His teams have catered for events with as many as 1,200 people.
But business completely stopped last year when bookings were cancelled and he moved into preparing and delivering fresh BBQ meat packs to keep things going.
Sebastian said: “I heard Ely City Golf Club was looking for a caterer and I approached them because it’s a fantastic opportunity.
“Things went from there, and it feels good to be working towards something that you know is actually going to happen after this tough year.
“Outdoor sports like golf are among the first to start up again, and the we will open for outdoor dining from April 12 when the restrictions are eased slightly.”
The menu offered will largely be a standard café menu and will include meals such as homemade burgers and pies. Two chefs will work in the kitchens.
Sebastian hopes this will progress to catering for larger functions, whether it’s a buffet, hog roast or a four-course sit-down dinner.
7. Sharkie & Bear, based in Ely.
Around this time last year, Jenny Guertin was interviewing for a job as a Business Development Manager. But the position became unavailable when the pandemic hit.
She had never made earrings before, but over the last 10 months has managed to sell 7,000 pairs of her own bold and colourful designs.
Jenny said: “My mental health really suffered in lockdown. I needed structure to daily routine otherwise it’d affect my whole day.
“I'd always wanted to set up my own business and needed to do something productive with that time.
“I found a Portuguese cork material which I realised I could make earrings from at my kitchen table. Through the power of social media, it's amazing how well they’ve taken off."
While Sharkie & Bear’s current customers are located all over the world, Jenny is keen to tap into a more localised market when the lockdown restrictions are eased this spring.
She said: “It has been a challenge and when you’re working from home it can feel as though you never escape.
“But I manage to do five minutes here and there of jewellery making and fit it around our young family.”
8. Ely Dojo, Martial Arts School. based at Fresh Studios, 16 Broad Street, Ely.
Ely Dojo has been a project in the making since September last year.
Head coach Stuart Aldous has helped transformed a space at Fresh Studios into a specialist studio for martial arts and will offer judo classes and self-defence training.
He hoped to open on a number of occasions, but the government hasn't allowed contact sports to go ahead at all throughout the pandemic.
Fingers crossed for Ely Dojo, and others who take part in similar practices, these restrictions will be lifted at some point during the summer.
The current date pencilled in for this on the government’s roadmap is June 21.
Stuart, who helped set up Witcham Judo Club, said: “We’ve used the time to completely renovate the space at Fresh Studios and transform it into a studio that’s fit for our purposes.
“It now has a sprung floor and is kitted out with mats on the floors and walls. We’re ready to welcome members, and we’ll be offering judo for anyone aged between five and 75.
“We're a non-profit, and I’ve also managed to secure funding from Living Sport Cambridgeshire to support classes especially for teenagers and young people to help them get active again after lockdown is lifted.
“Mick George also provided funding for some of the safety mats. We’re really looking forward to opening and showing everyone what we’ll be able to offer.”
9. Makeup by Emma Ellis, based in Littleport.
When Emma Ellis was made redundant as a sales consultant for well-known luxury beauty brands last year, she decided to set up a business focused on what she enjoyed doing.
A talented makeup artist with a full kit that includes the best brands, she is now taking bookings for bridal makeup and for those who want to make an extra special effort for an occasion.
When the lockdown restrictions ease and events such as wedding fairs start again, Emma hopes that being able to meet potential customers in-person will help the business grow.
Emma said: “While I’ve been able to use social media to show what I can do, there’s nothing like meeting people face-to-face.
“As the wedding and events industries start to recover, I hope that will be an opportunity for me to really branch out and focus on my makeup business.
“I already have around 20 bookings so far, some are in 2023. It’s a good start, and I really hope to build on that.”
10. Rollplay, 41 High Street, March
The last six months has been a time of stops and starts for Rollplay, a shop which specialises solely in table top games.
It has been running online for a year or so, and the shop opened a week before the November lockdown on October 24.
Owner Vicky Ransome said there was a bit of time to trade leading up to Christmas, but they’ve had to go back to web orders and offered a click-and-collect service this year.
When the restrictions are lifted, her hope is to be able to organise events and gatherings for those who enjoy the social aspect of playing these games.
She said: “Our family turned to table top games as a way of getting together, away from consoles and computers.
“We want to share that concept with others too, and our aim is to create a space to hold events where the community can get together and enjoy the games too.
“Our fantastic games table will be available for hire, and family and friends will be able to hire it to play whatever games they wish to try.
“We’re really excited to be opening again. On our first day, we had some travel from Ely to visit us, so the word is getting out there.”
Vicky also shared her recommendations at the moment.
Funfair is an entertaining board game where players can build and run their own fairground, and X-Men: Mutant Insurrection has also been getting positive reviews.
11. Glitz of March, 8B Station Road, March.
From the outside, Glitz of March may seem to be an alternative gift shop.
It offers a wide range of giftware as well as various spiritual and healing items such as crystals and aromatherapy oils.
But the team behind the venture plan on offering much, much more.
When lockdown eases, Louise Kirby and her best friend Tracey Short will also offer massages in the back room and the entire space will be cleared for group medium sessions which they will lead.
In fact, their planned Wednesday night events when lockdown restrictions ease are already proving popular and are fully booked until June.
Tracey’s brother Ian Matthews, who is also a qualified in massage is part of the new business and will offer mobile massaging for those unable to leave their homes.
Louise said: “We’ve all been able to keep things going because we've been juggling full time jobs as well. Tracey and I are both working full time as community nurses, and Ian is on the roads.
“Our aim is to offer holistic treatments for people, and to be a welcoming place for people to pop into in March.
“The treatments we can offer include aromatherapy, Swedish massage and reflexology and we want to continue adding to that as we complete other courses.
“Meditation is another area we would like to explore, and will hopefully offer group meditation sessions soon as well.
“We know it’s going to be a slow process and we will take our time to grow. But after the difficult year everyone has had, we want to help people with the skills that we have.”
12. Avanti Doors, available for commercial and residential projects across Cambridgeshire.
Many households and businesses have been using the lockdown as an opportunity to make improvements to their properties.
The recently launched Avanti Doors specialises in supplying and fitting all kinds of doors, whether it’s for industrial and commercial buildings or your own home.
All types of garage doors are available and its bespoke designs are made-to-measure. Engineers will also carry out garage door repairs.
For commercial buildings, it offers a 24/7 repair, maintenance and installation service for automatic, manual and industrial doors.
Visit the Avanti Doors website for more information.