As part of our Reopening High Streets Safely project, we’re celebrating retail gems and highlighting some of the incredible businesses which can be found in every corner of Eastleigh Borough. If you are a fan of a Borough business, nominate it as a Gem by emailing RHSS@eastleigh.gov.uk
Malik Usmonov runs Hursley Café in Hursley Road. Malik has been in business since 2017 and takes great pride in serving his local community. The café is well known for its food and drinks, especially its breakfasts and very popular thick milkshakes. During lockdown, he has altered his opening hours - the café is open from 8am until 2pm - for click and collect on 99% of the café’s menu. Inside the premises, he’s installed new embossed screens between tables, hand sanitisers and accommodated social distancing and cannot wait to welcome everyone back inside whenever that will be possible.
LA Dog Grooming
LA Dog Grooming salon and pet spa on the main high street in Chandler’s Ford is owned by Anna, Aimie and Lorraine, who met via dog grooming and decided to set up business together. Closed during the first lockdown, they were able to subsequently reopen safely to customers – their new COVID safety measures include a sanitiser for banknotes. Anna said: “We work with dogs because we love them! Our clientele includes lots of doodle dogs with ‘teddy bear’ hair - most owners are looking for a practical cut for the body combined with what’s known as a ‘teddy bear’ cuddly head”.
Waffles & Cream
This bright and colourful café in Fryern Arcade, Chandler’s Ford is a family concern; it’s run by local resident Hannah with support from her parents - mum Jennie is on hand regularly as a member of staff behind the counter. The shop recently celebrated its second birthday and Hannah has innovated and adapted as lockdowns have demanded; the premises now has a larger kitchen and the menu has expanded to include toasties and paninis in addition to popular waffles, milkshakes and churros. Hannah’s outside seating will be invaluable in the coming months and warmer weather.
Mermaids of Botley
Have a chat with the team in traditional deli Mermaids of Botley as they can tell you all about the provenance of their products. During lockdown, the team are serving at the door behind a screen and they offer graze boxes, afternoon teas and cheese boxes via their website, delivering to the local area. Owner Jono says: “Being on the beautiful high street, we wanted the look and feel of the shop to be traditional and as if it’s always been here. Whilst delivery has allowed us to continue reaching customers, for a small independent shop you can never deliver as many times in a day as you would have customers visit you at the shop. So, although it has been a lifeline, like many businesses we are certainly looking forward to opening to the door again and welcoming people back in!”
The River Rat
This popular Hamble restaurant is run by local sisters Laura and Sarah. Following in the footsteps of their parents - who ran a Hamble restaurant in the early 2000s - they took over the River Rat in summer 2019 to offer a unique dining experience at the top of the cobbled high street. The venue, which has a garden and outdoor BBQ/bar space, offers popular theme nights and during lockdown, they’ve adapted to offer themed takeaway meals (paella and French night have been popular).
Sarah said: “Most businesses naturally struggle in their first year and having the added strain of the pandemic has been unimaginable. During lockdown we’ve joined in with the village initiatives and we’re very lucky to be in Hamble where the local community are fantastic. We have used lockdowns to invest in the restaurant and have extended our kitchen, leased and knocked through the next-door property and added an outdoor bar and new all-weather coverings to our garden.”
The Flower Shop, Hedge End
Owner Sonia and her team have been working hard during the pandemic behind closed doors to accommodate contactless deliveries and click and collect via phone / online. Their occasion flowers, balloons, teddies, vases, giftcards, chocolates and fruit have brought smiles to faces during this very difficult time. Sonia knows the area well; she’s been running The Flower Garden in Hedge End since 2006, when she took over from the previous flower shop where she’d been an employee for 7 years.
She said: “We have a wide local delivery area and also provide a nationwide and worldwide service. We are very much looking forward to welcoming our customers back into the shop when we reopen safely.”
Local man Kevin had an idea for bike shop Botley MTB during the first lockdown in June 2020 – just a few months later it was a reality on Botley’s high street. He and his team have been able to remain open throughout subsequent lockdowns operating safely and securely, even serving hot drinks from the hatch at the side of their building. Kevin certainly knows the market; he’s a qualified mountain bike guide and has engaged a pro rider to work with his brand as he builds the business.
Kevin said: “We missed the initial bike boom during lockdown but the electric bicycle market has been growing and I think it’s set to explode.”
Beales Gents Hairdressers
Bob Richmond and the team at Beales Gents Hairdressers have been serving the community in West End since 2002. Bob lives above the barbershop and has become a very well-known local. During lockdowns, plastic screens were installed in the shop’s booths and a staff rota was introduced, but the team are delighted to have finally reopened their premises to customers.
Bob said: “I am extremely grateful to have received council funding to keep me going throughout the pandemic. I have been very busy taking bookings!”
Hannah Lewis’ Bridge Beauty started life in 2008 before going mobile due to business and personal circumstances. Hannah has now been at her current site at Hursley Road in Chandler’s Ford – which her mum found - for nine years offering treatments, massages with dreamtime teas for afters, shellac nails, extensions and more.
She has been nominated as a Gem by client Sam V who said: “Through lockdowns, she was on Facebook Live checking in, making us all laugh and she gave away a huge bouquet of flowers. More recently, she became a COVID vaccinator. She looks after her staff, clients, her social media followers and her family. She really is just one in a million.”
Hannah said: “My business means so much to me and has always been a labour of love; I hung the doors, I wallpapered. I am so honoured to have been nominated and it makes everything worthwhile. I put my clients first and I try to go the extra mile as being an independent business I think you really need to show what you can offer and that you care.
“There’s a real community feel in Chandler’s Ford and local business connections have increased over lockdowns – we message a lot over Instagram. Scott from The Green Room is brilliant and always let me borrow some till roll as I was forever running out when I started!”
Blue Butterfly Studios
Amy Fern was about to celebrate the first anniversary of Blue Butterfly Studios in the town centre when Covid happened. Amy, who has been teaching dance for over 15 years, had a dream of building a community hub right in the heart of town. With the help of her family - the studio was built by her husband and has branding designed by her brother's company Diguru - she transformed Unit 1 of The Swan Centre, Eastleigh, opening in April 2019, and now, in addition to three dance studios and rentable space, it has a café and the Blue Butterfly Beauty salon.
Amy said: “We would love our studio to be a place with something for everyone, somewhere that can offer fitness, workshops, seminars and much more. I would like to add a breastfeeding support group, too. The local community is very supportive and The Swan Centre has been absolutely amazing. I’m apprehensive but excited about being back and open again. I have been itching to get going and we have had a really good response. All my students’ parents have been amazing – if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Sea Sky in Hamble is run by Debbie and Susie, who used lockdowns to develop their website and offered free delivery for local orders. They also focused on their bright shop window, altering its content to cheer anyone who walked past on daily exercise.
Introduced by the previous owner of the space, they went into business together despite having only met a few times. But it worked out very happily and six years later they are still thriving, having combined their backgrounds of printmaking and retail (Debbie) and theatre and design (Susie). They love being a part of the friendly village community; they showcase the work of local artists and a local superyacht rigger makes the dog leads they sell.
Debbie, pictured, said: “The COVID crisis was very worrying but we were determined to keep our heads above water and the grants were so important. We’ve been so well supported by the local community and they rallied round to ask how they could help, buying gift vouchers and so on. We made little videos and sent them to our customers to help them choose the items they wanted from around the shop. Now the website is done, we’ll carry on selling online – we now get orders from all over the country.
"We have to love a thing to sell it and we’re always on the lookout for new quirky things; we try to stock directly from independent suppliers and we cater to any pocket.
“We’re really looking forward to restarting our workshops – we had a fully booked calendar for last year which had to be cancelled - using our space so that people have a lovely creative experience with no pressure.”