The new Essex restaurants and businesses rising from the ashes of the coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis has been an undeniably difficult period for businesses across Essex. After months of lockdown and hardship, many were forced to close their doors forever or return knowing the months and years ahead would be long and arduous. But amid the struggles, there is a new wave of businesses opening up and rising from the ashes of the crisis that has befallen us.

These businesses across Essex have embraced their situations, taken new chances and taken the leap to bring new and exciting ventures onto our high streets in what is the most challenging retail environment in living memory. From new luxury pet shops to portable mini golf - an array of promising new companies have been born out of one of the strangest times of our lives. As we continue to move away from lockdown, these businesses don't just bring life into our high streets but they give us hope that we can soon return to normality.

Here are some of the amazing businesses which have risen from the ashes of the coronavirus crisis.

Crazy golf with a twist

PuttParty Portable Crazy Golf Hire in Wickford

When lockdown was declared, things looked pretty uncertain for Jack Harrington and his fiance Sarah Odell. The Wickford couple,  who are both self-employed, came close to having to postpone their wedding next May, with concerns about finances. But things took a very different turn when one of their wedding ideas suddenly blossomed into a brilliant business.

"My fiance was a mobile hairdresser, so that went kaput with lockdown and I am a sports coach so that went kaput too," Jack, 28, explained. "We were generally worried because she had come off maternity leave from her job in February, was returning twice a week and doing hair self-employed, but then couldn't. "We were going to postpone at one point we were so worried."

Originally the portable crazy golf was made for Sarah and Jack's wedding next year

One of Jack and Sarah's family friends had made them a portable crazy golf for their wedding day to keep guests amused throughout the day.

It was this which sparked an idea in Jack for a business. He said: "We had a portable crazy golf thing built for our wedding next year, a family friend built it for us to use for the wedding and a few personal events. "We realised that on April 18 we could do something with it and it hasn't stopped since, now it's twice a day every day.

"It was always something that had conversations about but we done a bit of research and it went from there. "It was 4am and my daughter was eight-months-old and wasn't sleeping, so I made a Facebook page and it went from there." Putt Party Portable Crazy Golf was born, and quickly became a big hit in lockdown, with everyone stuck inside with nothing to do.

The portable crazy golf parts are made with wood, with the carpet and attachable details. As the weeks went on, they only became more popular as word of mouth spread around about their incredible business. "It went to schools who used it for some of their leaving events for the kids," he said.

"People loved it. I'm under no illusion the reason we are busy right now is because people needed things to do in their gardens but in some time it's going to be wet and cold so might not." Jack is really keen to push the business next year and look to expand.

They have a brand new wedding-themed portable golf course - with a spinning ring you have to try to hit the golf ball through. "We were in a positive position where I have got a very well known sports company, Jack of all Sports and Sarah has new hair business, so doing this we weren't gambling to lose anything, only to gain," he said. "I would love to expand and really go at it next year, doing lots of weddings and schools."

The one of a kind BBQ restaurant

Stoked will be opening this weekend in Westcliff-on-Sea

 

Saturday is a big day for Billy Reeve, who will be opening his restaurant for the first time this weekend.

But his restaurant in Westcliff, Stoked, isn't any old restaurant - it is a complete one-of-a-kind. It is claimed to be the first ever vegan BBQ restaurant outside of the USA, and another success story born through lockdown. "So the idea for Stoked came about when I turned vegan personally about four years ago," the 31-year-old explained.

"At the time, it was the height of veganism coming into fashion and was very mainstream. "I was struggling to get hold of proper BBQ food that was vegan, you can get chicken wings at certain restaurants in London but no one did ribs or brisket or pulled pork. "I started researching them and found a food truck in Austin, Texas - the one of only they doing vegan BBQ, so I went out there and ate the food and said 'This is amazing, it can be done.'"

The food looks amazing

For a whole year, Billy experimented with food trying to find the best way to make vegan BBQ food, investing in smoking equipment too.

They started running a year ago, doing stalls across Essex. But when lockdown was announced, Billy was inspired to think outside the box. He said: "At the start of pandemic, I immediately did delivery with our food, craft drinks and cocktails and it got so busy and so popular I just thought well you know what, let's make this bigger.

"Let's double down and go for a restaurant."

Their food looks mouthwateringly good

Originally the plan had been to open a few weeks ago, but there were some bumps in the road with preparing the restaurant. But the good news is they are ready to open this weekend, with a mouth-watering menu. "I am very excited and very relieved to be opening," he said.

"It's a very casual vibe, theres a full grill, different types of craft beers from around the world and cockatils. "We have a changing menu too so there is always something new, it's always a new experience." Looking forward, Billy hopes that they will be able to expand and move to a newer store.

But for now, they will be open in the restaurant and for takeaway.

Replacement McMuffins and magical afternoon teas

The Harry Potter afternoon tea

 

At the beginning of the year, Joey James had around 200 events booked for his business Just Bars. They were even booked in for the 50th anniversary of Glastonbury Festival. But of course, the global pandemic meant every event was cancelled or moved to next year.

After a month of lockdown, the 32-year-old realised he needed to get creative and find a new way to make money. "Because of the way our business works and how it runs, I think we would only get a GBP1,000 grant which doesn't even cover the rent," Joey said. "I was sitting there thinking, what can I do?

I started to see that everyone was craving McDonalds breakfasts or a fresh coffee. "I have barrister coffee machines and I have equipment for that, so I got the infrastructure quickly and redid my kitchen at home. "I didn't want to invest in a new place for building something that didn't work."

Joey James, 32, set up the business in lockdown

Joey's home kitchen was transformed into a commercial space, equipped with four freezers in the living room now.

Joey's Java was born - offering coffee and the perfect replica McMuffins after a number of trials. "We replicated the egg McMuffin and customers loved it, we had massive rave reviews," he said. "We couldn't keep up with demand, we were having requests from Basildon, Billericay and Southend.

We were making 120 McMuffins a day." When Greggs and McDonalds reopened, demand started to drop off a little and Joey set himself the task of thinking of another new venture for Joey's Java. He said: "I saw on a Facebook group there were people making afternoon teas and everyone was posting pictures of their home baking and some had decided to stick it in a box, and there was so much profit margin.

"I have always been one for taking ideas and reinventing them to be better and I thought I could do this in a different way."

They also do evening tapas sets

Joey decided to expand his tea rooms to make them themed, equipped with all the plates, cutlery, props and stands to make them stand out. The first was Alice in Wonderland theme. "It started off with just Alice in Wonderland, we had the special tea stands and Lewis Carol artwork," Joey said.

"We made these mocktails that taste different but are all clear, like the drink me potions that taste different with each sip." There is now a special Harry Potter theme too, equipped with Ferrero Rocher for snitches and its very own mandrakes. Their Winnie the Pooh theme launched on mental health awareness week too, where you can make a photo album, and it comes with a book of Pooh's thoughts.

And as if that wasn't all enough, they will soon be having a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed afternoon tea too. Joey is looking to open up their own tearoom soon - but in the mean time, he will be busy working, surrounded by 140 tea pots in his living room.

Luxury dog boutique

Owner Rachel Edwards with two of her sausage dogs

 

Woof and Co is the latest exciting addition to Maldon High Street, opening just two weeks ago. It is a luxury dog boutique offering that something special for our furry friends.

It was a dream come true for owner Rachel Edwards, who would never have imagined she would be opening her dream store this year. The 32-year-old said: "We have got another shop in Tiptree, Tower Pet and Animal Feed, but it has always been a dream to have a shop on the high street. "We have lots of dog ourselves and I always wanted that and to have the opportunity was amazing.

We have been so fortunate to have the support and customers being really excited spurred me on. "It all happened quite quickly, my other half bought the building last year and I never really had plans that I would have downstairs but then he asked and I was so happy."

Woof and Co opened just two weeks ago

Opening a business post-lockdown has certainly been an experience to remember, one which has shocked and pleased locals. "With coronavirus, we didn't know what would happen but people still need dog food and need to buy, so it was okay," she said.

"I think it's been good with the whole shop local, shop small and support high street movement. "That has been really good. On the whole so many people are prepared to support small businesses.

"I think that is the silver lining of coronavirus. "I was decorating outside, some said 'you must be crazy' and 'good luck' opening a business now, but we have had so much support and positivity."

They do a variety of natural dog foods and luxury products

So far the store has been a success, offering a variety of natural dog food and luxury products. They also have a 'scoop your own' policy to help reduce waste and packaging.

"The biggest impact of coronavirus was how many restrictions," Rachel said. "So things like how many people in the store can come in, for the opening I was really stressed because I didn't know how we would cope with everyone queueing but it went really well." Rachel is also enjoying seeing the many dogs and puppies coming in store with their owners too.

They are hoping to expand the business to other areas in the future too.

Indian inspired afternoon tea

Made by B

 

If there is one thing Banita Ludhor and her family like, it's afternoon tea. With three children in their house in Witham, Banita, 41, has spent lockdown trying to feed and teach her children. But out of that came an inspired business hobby.

"I'm still working from home as an auditor full time, but with the difference of three kids at home," she said. "They are eating so much and everyone was getting bored, so I was doing a lot of cooking. "I created an Instagram account in first week of lockdown to share my recipes and how not to waste food."

As lockdown went on, there were a number of birthdays and Father's Day which they would always order in an afternoon tea for. "My sister-in-law's 40th birthday was coming up and we were supposed to go to London for an afternoon tea," Banita said. "So I decided to do something different and create my own Indian afternoon tea.

"What happened when I had to order all the packaging and jars to make hers, it came in batches and I thought what do I do with 25 boxes? "So I thought I would give it a go and the local community response was so good."

Banita creates an Indian-inspired afternoon tea

'Made by B' was set up on Facebook and Banita has been taking orders to in between her day job. She has even made a vegan Indian tea for a friend.

"For me, it's been like a breath of fresh air, to be in my own head space and do something good for me," she said. "I think people have used this time to try something new." Their afternoon teas include a chicken tikka wrap, mini sheesh lamb kebab roll, samosas, pakoras and jars of chutney.

Their sweet treats include a delicious lime and ginger cheese cake, coconut jam sponge and cardomen spiced biscuit - all inspired by Indian flavours.

Banita would love for this to one day be a full time job and expand if possible.

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