Luxury boutique and board game cafe among new Wakefield businesses opening for the first time as lockdown easing continues
'We've never opened a business before - and it's never been done in Covid' - Wakefield business owners explain their experiences of opening brand new shops in the middle of a pandemic.
It's been a week of stress, excitement and joy for thousands of retailers, as they open their doors to customers for the first time in more than three months.
But for two Wakefield businesses, the lockdown has presented an even more drastic challenge: how do you prepare, open and launch a brand new business in the middle of a global pandemic?
Samantha Maries and her partner Jack Mallinson have today opened their new business, Geek Retreat, for the first time.
Located on the Bullring, in the heart of the city centre, the unit is currently functioning as a shop and offering takeaway drinks.
But as lockdown restrictions ease further, it will expand to function as a board game cafe, comic book retailer and, eventually, host of events.
Geek culture has seen a big boom in recent years, and the Geek Retreat brand how has more than 30 stores across the UK.
But for Samantha and Jack, the challenge of opening a brand new business has only been compounded by lockdown.
Samantha said: "Opening in Covid has honestly been a little bit stressful because the restrictions aren't always clearly written down.
"But we have the added bonus of being a franchise so our head office has done a lot. We're probably better equipped than some others.
"Hiring staff has been quite interesting because you don't want to promise lots of hours you can't do but you don't know how busy it will be.
"We've never opened a business before and it's never been done in Covid."
But the couple have high hopes for the business, which they say will be unique in the city when it is allowed to fully open in June, and cater to a range of different groups.
Samantha said: "Today is just retail and takeaway drinks and then in May we can start doing food. By June we can start doing anything.
"It's basically a geek store. We do a lot of mainstream stuff as well, like Marvel and Harry Potter and some Disney things.
"When it's open properly people can play board games or card games, whether it’s their own or the store’s.
"We also do comic books - some of those are free to read - we basically just ask that every hour you buy a coffee.
“We don’t care who you are, we’re very accepting of anyone. We want people to come in and feel safe in an environment that they’re understood in."
But Samantha and Jack are not the only new business hoping to bring something different to Wakefield.
A new exclusive boutique is hoping to introduce a dash of glamour and glitz to the city centre when it opens tomorrow.
Secret Chambers, tucked in the corner of Wood Street and Cross Street, is run by Tracy Chambers.
As well as luxury makeover options from a team of staff, the shop offers custom branded makeup and clothes, and has even partnered with a local designer.
Tracy said: "It will be the place where you can come get your nails done, your eyelashes done, buy an outfit and go out.
"I've always been interested in clothes and makeup and things, so I found a shop and decided to go for it.
"You can come in and have a cup of tea. We want it to be very relaxed and homely. We'll even get clothes off the rails and show you the items."
"We also have our own designer, Diane Foley from Normanton. We have three items of clothing at a time from her.
"And we have props for people to take photos with - a throne, a carousel horse and the flower wall."