“People made a point of coming in to support us” – How Espresso Plus turned lockdown into a positive

Date: 01/03/2021

It has been one hell of a year for the cafe scene and while many businesses have seen a huge shift to takeaways and online ordering, for one Mossley Hill independent, Espresso Plus, it wasn’t the case.

Owner Tim Gray runs the business – an independent, fully licensed coffee bar and bistro serving superfood breakfasts, sandwiches and homemade soups – with his daughter Anna on Rose Lane in leafy Mossley Hill.

Tim relishes the time he gets to spend with regulars and newcomers – but the pair decided staying open during lockdown could not work and took the decision to close their doors.

Tim said: “We’re a coffee shop bistro and our breakfast menu wouldn’t work as a takeaway. An eggs benedict will just look a bit sad when it gets there.

“Initially Anna was quite concerned, and at that stage nobody really knew how we were going to survive. Espresso Plus is both our livelihoods so she was quite upset about it. I reassured her and said one way or another, we are going to get through this.

“As far as grants are concerned, we have qualified and they have helped. Without them we would have been in a right mess. If you don’t get a loan, you still have to pay the rent, there would be no way to carry on.

“I’m confident that when we do open people will come back, people have messaged me about buying tickets already for our next wine tasting night. I think generally there has been a great move to support independents like us.”

With Tim’s positivity, staying closed and bringing their business to a halt became an opportunity to tune into things they wouldn’t normally notice.

Tim, along with everyone else in Liverpool, the country and the world, has had to adapt to a new way of living and at first the thought of staying at home felt limiting.

But Tim learnt that there are plenty of productive things to do.

 

“It is really lovely and heart-warming to know people are thinking of you and I feel as though we will bounce back with the support and loyal customer base we have.”

 

He said: “A great passion of mine is wine tasting and it is something we have done for many years at Espresso Plus. So, I signed up to an online wine course because I thought I had the time and the opportunity to learn a bit more.

“Honestly, it isn’t just an excuse to have a glass of wine.

“When we do open, I am thinking of getting a guest in to present their favourite wine as a nice novelty for our wine nights. This is just one of our ideas for the future and we have also thought about staying open in the evenings too.”

As well as delving straight into an online course Tim and Anna thought what would be a better time to work on their DIY skills and redecorate the place.

Tim said: “To close the place when you want to decorate is a lot of lost income but the first lockdown was a great time to completely redecorate rather than spending a Sunday evening maybe only managing to paint one wall.

“So, we got stuck in and over a couple of weeks we took the opportunity to redesign the interior for the better.”

Optimising their cafe space is certainly more important than ever in light of the current situation, although the unique atmosphere of Espresso Plus has already set itself apart from the four Costas nearby.

Tim added: “We have a lot of loyal, regular customers and people have been coming in for years. We have got that advantage because we have been here a long time.

“There are kids who first came in a pram and now they’re almost going to university.

“When we were allowed to open up again people made a point of coming in to support us. Now we are closed again we get lots of messages asking to purchase gift vouchers to support us and to use when we are back open.

“It is really lovely and heart-warming to know people are thinking of you and I feel as though we will bounce back with the support and loyal customer base we have.”

Both Liverpool City Council as well as the government eased the financial burden and pressure caused by the pandemic for independents like Espresso plus with their grants and schemes.

Tim said: “Liverpool without walls was a great scheme carried out in the centre of the city where they pedestrianised a few streets for customers to eat outside throughout summer.

“We got a small grant to revamp our outside eating area and it enabled me to expand that a little bit with some new furniture. During those summer months that was a good help and people loved sitting outside.

“When the VAT was reduced to 5%, wow that was amazing. It was a big saviour really because to suddenly get a massive bill for VAT on top of the fact that we’re having a tough time wouldn’t be great.

“Going forward I am hoping that it will be extended because I think for people to get back on their feet, the 5% VAT is going to be a real boost, so we will have to keep our fingers crossed on that.”

For the time being Tim and Anna are waiting like the rest of us and they have both enjoyed the little moments we have all come to cherish because of lockdown.

Tim said: “Going for walks, and walks with my dogs has been quite a saviour actually. Myself and Anna share dogs and I love walking them together.”

With a date set in place by the government, hope continues to thrive in these difficult circumstances and we know the thought of claiming your regular seat in your local cafe like Espresso Plus, will soon become a reality.

Written by Tanisha Cantrell

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