Lockdown One Year On: A Sevenoaks farm shop's lockdown success story

Farm shop owners Dan and Charlie Bain opened their business just weeks before lockdown and trade quadrupled overnight.

The week before Sevenoaks shut down last March, former marketing manager Dan Bain lay in bed with what he now knows was coronavirus.


Dan and his wife Charlie, both 38, had opened their long planned farm shop just before Christmas on the family estate in Markbeech.


They had opted to start small but as Dan isolated in his bedroom over the next two weeks he watched as queues formed.


"Footfall quadrupled overnight. We were going from serving one person an hour to queues out of the door. People were parking on the main road," he said.


"My mum and brother had to take over. They changed the isolation rules and Charlie had to isolate - then she went down with it."


At the start of the pandemic there was little information about how coronavirus affected people differently.


"There was no testing. I just had to isolate and it completely knocked me out," he said.


Two weeks later - as Dan and then Charlie emerged - it soon became clear the couple who had started Falconhurst Farmshop and Deli - with a cheese counter and a few vegetables from Bore Place - "really needed to step it up".


And, says Dan, that also meant producers overnight found themselves supplying to more small outlets like theirs rather than restaurants they were used to.


Stock has increased five fold since then and the Cowden Pound Road shop has has moved fresh produce into a covered area outside to make space for an assortment of meat, nibbles, eggs, and deli items.


Fresh fish is sold from a stand once a week and a renewable supplies stall comes once a month. There are plans to use the estate's diary cattle to produce milk and yoghurt and a barn has been cleared to created space for outside community events, when restrictions ease.


But Dan and Charlie, a former production assistant on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow, say their success has not been all plain sailing. During the first lockdown they were homeschooling their three children, aged four, seven and nine, behind the counter while trying to serve customers, and that was hard.


But their work has allowed them to meet and greet many of their neighbours who would find a trip to the local shop meant the chance to see someone and pass the odd word.


"Over the summer we would often see people in the queue standing five metres apart chatting. We find people really like to chat to us - they come in and offload and we try not to move people on quickly.


"We are a bit like a social worker and I think the community and getting people talking is one of the good things that has come out of this," said Dan.


"We really love working here. We are lucky because we are in a job that means we get to see lots of people everyday."


The pandemic has forced people to do things differently - to shop locally and it is a change which both Dan and Charlie believe is here to stay


Source: In Your Area