Twickenham family businesses back stronger after pulling together during pandemic

Historic family businesses on Twickenham High Street have returned to pre-pandemic trading after pulling together within the community during the pandemic.

Paul Cooper and Sons, which has traded on Twickenham High Street for 70 years and can trace its history back 200 years, served people outside the shopfront to maintain social distancing before reopening inside this week.

FAMILY BUSINESS: An old picture of King Street which hangs in the shop. Paul Cooper & Sons, formerly Cousins, can trace its history back over 200 years

Alongside staying open over successive lockdowns, the grocers delivered food boxes to elderly customers.

Owner Paul Cooper said: “We were working pretty much 24 hours a day, sleeping in the vans an hour here and an hour there. 

“We would finish our deliveries to older customers at nine at night then go straight to the markets.”

Paul commented he had never known a community work together as Twickenham did during the pandemic: “A lot of young people made Whatsapp groups and placed orders for their whole road. 

“Even the young kids at Bu’Sen Karate school went round in their karate kits delivering for us.”

Commenting on the first lockdown and the empty shelves of many supermarkets during the pandemic, Paul’s son John Cooper said: “We served a lot of new faces at the start because people couldn’t get fruit.

“A lot of people didn’t even realise we were here because they have busy lives, going to work and not having time to shop with us, whereas when they were working from home they had more time. 

When asked about whether he thinks their success over the pandemic will continue, Paul said: “People realised what we do and who we are, and then they’d come back and we still serve them now.

“That is what is nice about it, everyone knows us and we know everyone, that’s how it should be, it’s the old-fashioned way of doing things.

“Today people go to supermarkets and don’t speak to anyone, they use self-service tills. That’s what I enjoy most about the job, talking to people and socialising.”

REFITTED: The grocers has now fully reopened after a refit this week. During the pandemic, it served customers on the street to maintain social distancing

While the grocers’ was able to stay open during the pandemic and gained new customers from it, they also experienced tragedies.

John said: “The pandemic was frightening for sure, we had a few customers who died during it which was really sad. 

“One of the ladies we lost was in her sixties and had shopped here since she was a kid. I had known her since I was a kid and my grandad served her.”

John said that while many people wanted the shop to return to trading indoors, they are happy to serve customers who are still worried about Covid-19 in the open.

Extending into the street also took the shop back to its roots, as until the 1960s, Cousins, as it was then called, was a street stall on Queen’s Road, outside the building it is in now.

Sandys Fishmongers, founded on King Street in 1978, also continued to stay open and worked throughout the community during the pandemic.

“It was head down and crack on, we didn’t think for a minute that we would close,” said owner Stuart Sandys.

“It’s just about being there for people when you’re part of the community like we are.”

Roger Crouch, a Liberal Democrat Councillor for Twickenham Riverside, said: “In a time when many high streets have become bland with the normal big-names, Twickenham is very lucky not only to have Coopers’ but also Sandys and the butchers and that they have kept trading through difficult times.”

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