Shop Local: Shining the spotlight on Villette Road traders in Lockdown 3
Touch and go for some, while others have welcomed new custom – it’s a mixed bag of fortunes for essential traders in Villette Road during Lockdown 3.
As part of our ongoing #SupportLocal campaign, we’re running a series of spotlight features on Sunderland’s local high streets and their essential traders still open for business in Lockdown 3.
This week, we went along to Villette Road, a street that’s been the back bone of Hendon for decades, from its days providing lunches for the area’s heavy industry to the 21st Century where it now homes a number of independent businesses as well as the excellent Back on the Map charity which flies the flag for community spirit.
One of the street’s most well-known traders is Müller Swiss Bakers, who’ve been baking breads and crafting cakes in the city for more than 60 years.
Max Müller has been behind the counter of the business founded by his parents, which also has branches in Sea Road and Blandford Street, for more than 50 years.
In that time he’s seen the peaks and troughs of the local high street, but he says business has actually been better during Lockdown than it was three years ago, as the pandemic has caused people to appreciate what’s on their doorstep.
He’s also noticed that people are looking to treat themselves more, whether that’s with a Müller signature green frog or a pink slice, on top of their regular bread orders.
"I think probably two or three years ago it was a lot quieter than it is now,” he explained. “I think there’s maybe more people trying to support their local businesses. And so they should be doing as I think you get much better service than in a supermarket.
“People come in here and we know them, we look after them, whereas in a supermarket you’re just chucking stuff in a trolley.”
Neighbouring business George Franklin Butchers has been trading in the street since 1972, and they too have seen much support from their regulars.
Tony Franklin said: “We’re lucky that we’re an essential trader so can remain open. A lot of our customers are older and they prefer coming here than supermarkets as it’s easier to social distance here.
"Business-wise, it’s been good. We haven’t needed to deliver, but we do do that for people if they’re stuck.”
Further up the road, business has been difficult for independent fish and chip shop Young’s due to lack of footfall and the loss in trade from schoolchildren who would visit at lunchtimes.
William Young has been trading in the street for the past eight years.
"When we first opened eight years ago business was good, but since the pandemic it’s been absolutely terrible. It’s touch and go whether we should continue,” he explained.
The businessman added: "People just aren’t passing like they used to, because there’s nothing to come out for. The street has definitely gone down from what it used to be. A lot of the shops are shut and the units are in such a bad condition as they’ve been left too long, so it’s not worth new businesses taking them on.