Hug In A Mug Walkden

Community cafe Hug In A Mug serves hot drinks and homemade food – but its role at the centre of the Walkden community meant more than steak pies and chocolate cake were missing during the Covid19 lockdown.

Hug in a Mug, based on High Street in Walkden recently reopened, following several months delivering food and support across Worsley.

Founder Karen Gardener admits her customers have helped keep her sane and hopes she has returned the favour.

Karen admits lockdown was hard, both financially and emotionally, but hopes the future looks brighter as customers start to return and the community adjusts to the new normal.

How did you personally find lockdown – and how was it from a business perspective?
Lockdown to our business was an absolute shock to us, we had only an hours notice to shut our doors. No information was given to us and we didn’t know what to do. We are a community cafe and felt that a lot of our customers would suffer through not being able to come in.

We began to offer a free Sunday dinner and free large bag of shopping to 40 of our customers every week, which was a grant given to a charity we raise money for called Dancing with Dementia, which we delivered free of charge.

We also offered a meal and pudding to any of our customers every night for a token £7.50 delivered every night, which gave us peace of mind that they were not left isolated. We also did any errands or help they might need with anything at all.

Takeaway Hug In A Mug
One of Hug In A Mug’s takeaways is readied for delivery

We knew we would never survive to be able to pay our rent as our landlords didn’t even contact us at all during lockdown. We have paid the rent on time every month and also all our other bills, this was only possible by offering a takeaway service online, which was done for us by one of our customers free of charge. We have lovely customers and we have all kept each other sane.

We didn’t take a wage all lockdown so we could pay rent and other bills. Luckily Salford Council gave every business a grant, which helped keep us afloat.

Do you feel the government has done enough to help businesses like Hug In A Mug?
The government was a real shock as the grant was based on the last three years profit, and as we really don’t make a lot of profit due to keeping prices low the money was £600 for the whole of lockdown between the two of us. I felt this was so unfair because businesses that made a big profit in the last three years got a sizeable chunk of money, which to me was ‘money goes to money’.

“We provided 60 handmade face masks and PPE packages…”

What’s the response of the community been like?
The charity we work with, Dancing with Dementia run by Lesley Fisher, gave us two brand new microwaves which are a great help to our business. We delivered to a lot of people who have dementia and other illnesses which were totally on lockdown and couldn’t leave the house.

We saw once-bubbly people fall into deep depression, it was a terrible thing, they really looked forward to our visit and we tried to make them laugh and feel wanted, we had volunteer drivers which was lovely of them to give up their time.

We provided 60 hand made face masks that were made by us with cheery designs on them to make them smile. We provided PPE packages as well, so if-and-when they could leave the house they would feel safe to do so.

Hug In A Mug deliveries
“We began to offer a free Sunday dinner and free large bag of shopping to 40 of our customers every week”

What changes have you had to make with regard to how you do business at Hug In A Mug?
We opened our door on 9th July 2020 with all government guidelines put in place. I feel it will be a long time ’til people are feeling totally safe again.

We have tried to make everyone welcome again and given them the feeling of security and we have seen a lot of our old customers coming back and loving it, to be able to come back and socialise like they did before. We run a craft group on a Tuesday night and although we have not set a date for reopening it, we do hope to soon.

How do you see things panning out for cafe sector over the next few months?
I hope this isn’t the end of local shops and cafes, we are all finding it very hard to survive.

I think this whole thing has left its mark, let’s hope that we can fight our way through it and come out the other end. If it’s left to us and our customers we will. We’re thankful for all of them, we are certainly a community that’s closer through all of this.

One Comment

  1. So proud to have worked with you Karen! To our Dancing with Dementia guests you were a light in the dark days. A smile and a conversation goes s long way when you are isolated. Reaching out to people , maintaining and creating new friendships has given a deeper sense of community and of beloging. This connection with the outside world has been so valuable to the self worth and wellbeing both physically and emotionally to our guests. Thank you to you, your team and the team of volunteer drivers!

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