Shop Local: Shining a spotlight on East Boldon's independent traders
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But how are they faring in Lockdown 3?
As part of our series of spotlight features highlighting local high streets in the region, we visited the South Tyneside village to speak to essential retailers allowed to remain open under the current restrictions.
Blacks Corner took over a landmark junction in East Boldon in 2017, honouring the heritage of the site by naming their restaurant after the colloquial term for the corner of St Bedes and Station Road.
To further cater for demand, in 2019 they opened a sister site deli in St John’s Terrace, allowing them to increase their range of small-batch British produce.
While the restaurant and wine bar remains closed for now, the deli is still open keeping locals well stocked with a great quality range of takeaway coffees, breads, farmhouse cheeses, meats, cakes, larder supplies, wines and beers from local breweries such as Vaux.
The deli side of the business means they’ve been able to retain all 27 of their staff through the Lockdowns and owner Jonathan Dryden says the past year has given them the chance to further build the brand and cement its role in the community.
In the first Lockdown, which came at short notice, they were left with fridges full of stock, but Blacks Corner launched a community outreach programme to deliver food parcels.
With an initial donation from author L J Ross and further funds from North East LEP it snowballed into a £10,000 project which retained jobs and provided food for those who couldn’t leave their homes.
Hampers are still a big part of the deli’s business and, filled with all range of artisan produce, are now sent out for delivery across the country.
"The response to the deli has really made us realise what the business means to the community,” said Jonathan. “We’ve really been able to identify why the deli is here and the service we provide for people, from people working from home who come in for a takeaway coffee, some free range eggs and a chat to a customer ordering a hamper for someone special. We are very much community led, and that community supports us.”
Moving forward, Jonathan and the team have utilised the time in Lockdown to foster more links with small-batch producers across the country and, with people feeling more passionate than ever before about supporting local, will be launching some of their own brand products including a Blacks Corner Northern tea in collaboration with the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall.
In the village’s Front Street, Pickings Butchers has been serving sausages, scotch eggs and more since 1870 winning numerous awards over the years, recognising their sausages as some of the best in the country.
While many of Front Street’s pubs and non-essential retailers remain closed, Pickings has remained open throughout the Lockdowns.
Butcher Stephen Auton said: “In the first Lockdown a lot of people were panic buying and they were coming in buying hundreds of pounds worth of meat to see them through.
"This one has been slightly different as people know they can still get stuff. However, we still do deliveries for those customers who are self-isolating.”