k, so on the back of the launch of the Coffee Shop quickly came the outbreak of Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it’s now called and all coffee shops, along with other non-essential retailers and hospitality venues had to close. ‘Disappointed!’ does not come close. I asked Charlotte to write this blog and all she would contribute was the heading! Unhelpful!!

Anyway, we are where we are and along with so many other small businesses, we find ourselves all but shut down. Or are we? Once Charlotte got over the first couple of days when the world had imploded and life, as we knew it, had come to an end, she picked herself up and started to think creatively. We had been planning to hold our Wonderberrys Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea on Sunday 22nd March and had a number of people booked in. However, we were no longer allowed to open the Coffee Shop, so we contacted everyone who had booked and asked if they would like to collect take~away afternoon tea boxes. This was so popular with everyone, we then advertised it on social media and were really taken aback by the number of bookings and the support from so many lovely people.

Now I know the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, but at this stage events had rapidly overtaken us and we weren’t quite as prepared as we would have liked to be, in other words not prepared at all! In fact, we had no take-away packaging, no way of portioning jam or cream, we hadn’t considered payment options, but we had doubled the number of orders/bookings we originally had for the shop. So, the two of us dashed off to find a solution and in true Wonderberrys style pulled the ‘cat out of the bag’ or the ‘rabbit out of the hat’ whichever you prefer:

It got a bit hairy at one point when we were trying to work out if we had made up the orders correctly, taking into consideration: vegetarian; no fish; no eggs; gluten free etc etc., tying the bows around the boxes and adding the ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ labels whilst people were arriving at the front door to collect. Interesting times, but we did it and we received so many lovely comments, it was definitely the right thing to do, when so many plans for Mother’s Day get togethers had been dashed.

I can’t believe it was one month ago tomorrow that we opened the Coffee Shop and eleven days ago that we had to shut down. We have now been social distancing for less than two weeks but it has had such a fundamental effect on how we function. We were never intended to live in isolation of each other and this has been particularly difficult for people unable to communicate using Skype or other video platforms. One thing Charlotte has been able to continue, is posting her upbeat messages each day on Instagram and so many people comment on how much they look forward to hearing from her each day as her messages bring them a little ray of positivity in, what has very quickly become, a negative situation. Thinking about so many people stuck at home and unable to reach elderly or isolated friends and relatives, we came up with the Take~Away Cake Box (Cake~Away), a box of mixed cakes suitable for home freezing that could be a treat on those days when you just need something nice. We sold all of these but producing a mixed box with no idea of how many orders would be required was untenable so we have replaced it with a variety of options we can bake fresh as and when required. In order to protect ourselves and our customers, any orders placed with us now are completely contactless eg the order is placed via Facebook/Instagram/Phone/Email, the payment is processed electronically and the order is placed ready for collection at an agreed time from West End, Southampton. This is currently working well as people can collect on their way home from work or on their way to collect their shopping.

Trying to find a solution to the reality of isolation and the challenges of being confined indoors for such long periods of time, Charlotte also introduced the Wonderberrys Bake-a-Long, encouraging people to join her baking session live on Facebook.com/Wonderberrys each Thursday at 3pm. The recipes were selected to give non-bakers and parents stuck at home with children something to do and have a bit of fun together. Around 25 people joined in the first week to make and decorate cookies with Charlotte and so many people sent in their photos afterwards. People are still following the video a week later and a new group of WonderBakers is born! One WonderBaker, a little boy named Ezra baked cookies with his Mum but somehow they all disappeared and, with a face covered in chocolate, he denied eating any of them. Here are some of the amazing WonderBaker efforts.

To say this had been a stressful time would be an understatement but we are very aware that so many people are far worse off than we are. This horrible virus has cost many people their livelihoods and in some cases, their lives. We are so grateful for the support of our customers, many of whom have become our friends, at this awful time and we wish everyone well and hope you all stay safe.