‘Neighbourhood’ is on the rise. As a result of Covid-19 restrictions many of us are now working from home, which has led to more people choosing to socialise and shop in their local area. The idea of a 20-minute neighbourhood has been a point of discussion across the UK since lockdown restrictions were put in place earlier this year as we now place an even greater focus on ‘living locally’. People are actively seeking to live in areas where most of their everyday needs can be met within a 20-minute walk, cycle, or local public transport trip of their home.
This is good news for Neighbourhood Café on Woolton Road. They’ve been established for over 18 years and have become a firm favourite with the residents of South Liverpool. Owner Lynne has been at the helm since their opening day in 2002, taking over the lease from the former Hamilton & Sons Grocery Store. With lockdown came a unique opportunity for Neighbourhood to return to their roots. “Within 24 hours of the announcement we had converted our business into a grocery store for the local community, offering essentials such as fresh produce, bread and eggs from our own local suppliers. It felt like we were paying tribute to the heritage of this great building.”
Lynne was also confident that she could safely re-open her doors to café customers, having completed the Foursquare Covid-Safe certification back in July. “Eat Out to Help Out was a great boost for us here at Neighbourhood, and we were delighted to see that it brought new customers through our doors too. We hope that we’ll see them again in the coming months.”
The hospitality industry has always held a special place in Lynne’s heart. “After I graduated from university, I worked in the US for several years spending time in Boston, New Orleans and Aspen. They were ahead of the curve in terms of customer service, and for Americans working in hospitality is a career choice rather than a temporary role. I want to help young people in the UK realise that they can have a great career in the service industry and I’m currently working with Barfection to mentor young people who want to work in hospitality.” Lynne currently has one of Barfection’s trainees on placement at Neighbourhood and is committed to passing on her knowledge as well as her love for the industry.
Lynne is incredibly proud of her team – many of whom have been with her for years – but she also wants to ensure that they maintain a healthy work-life balance. “We know that coming to work is just one part of our employee’s lives, and that they have other interests outside of the workplace. We want to make sure that they can pursue their own hobbies and goals whilst still enjoying what they do here with us.” Lynne is also aware of her own balance and she’s keen to involve her family in the business. “My brother works alongside me, and my daughter was here every day during lockdown doing her schoolwork and watching how we operate. I think she learned a lot more about the business being here every day and understands the hard work that goes hand in hand with being an entrepreneur. It’s not about being the perfect mum, or wife, or business owner, but finding a balance between these things which allows you to enjoy all aspects of your life.”
Lynne and her team have great plans for the future of Neighbourhood. “We want to launch an evening offer, giving customers who would usually visit for coffee and cake during the day a chance to socialise later in the day too. We’re hoping to host some music and poetry nights to give our customers a great experience of night times at Neighbourhood. I’m always looking to surround myself with knowledgeable people, so we’ll also be looking for experts in beers and wines to support us with our evening plans.” Lynne also has big plans for a refurbishment and wants to restore some of the original features which are hidden inside this fascinating building. “We retained a lot of the features from the original grocery store, including shelving and hanging racks and the original shopfront. We’d love to restore the interior to its former glory.”
With so many people in the UK now actively seeking out a local community feel when choosing an area to live in, it’s clear that indies like Neighbourhood have a bright future. “The suburbs are a wonderful place to try something different. We have one clear goal for the future here at Neighbourhood, and that’s to keep on shining and celebrate what we do best.”