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How Sheppey and Sittingbourne firms have reacted to the coronavirus lockdown

The way people shop has totally changed since the coronavirus lockdown.

But some businesses in Sittingbourne and on Sheppey have been quick to respond to the new needs.

Sittingbourne entrepreneur Terry Utting outside TJ's E-cigarettes
Sittingbourne entrepreneur Terry Utting outside TJ's E-cigarettes

TJs E-cigarettes, which has shops across Kent, quickly ramped up its online sales and announced it would donate £1 to the NHS for every online order.

Owner Terry Utting said: "Our online sales went through the roof. We have been completing 300 to 500 orders a week. That's 90% up.

"People still need their nicotine to relieve stress, especially in these worrying times.

"We offer same-day morning deliveries in Sittingbourne and on Sheppey and in the afternoons we target a different area of Kent. Our driver has been working every night to 10pm to keep up with the demand."

Although pubs and restaurants were forced to close, some have adapted into takeaways.

Chris Collier has opened an off-licence at the Admiral's Arm pub in Queenborough on Sheppey
Chris Collier has opened an off-licence at the Admiral's Arm pub in Queenborough on Sheppey

The Aviator at Queenborough Corner, Sheppey, took a leaf out of McDonald's and transformed itself into a fast-food takeaway by converting an outdoor bar into a kitchen and handing out orders to car drivers.

As the lockdown begins to ease, the nearby Admiral's Arm micropub opened as an off-licence on Sunday . Owner Chris Collier said: "We have been offering a delivery service for drink and snacks seven days a week and pizzas on Fridays and Saturdays since the lockdown.

"As things are starting to relax a little now, we have decided to open as an off-licence as well on Thursdays to Sundays from 1pm to 3pm to see how it goes."

Like many shops, contactless card payment is preferred but cash will be accepted. For details see its website at www.admiralsarm.co.uk

The Playa bar and restaurant at The Leas, Minster, has had to abandon plans to introduce a mobile bar to cater for visitors to the beach following complaints from neighbours. But it is now selling takeaway food from its front door.

Brother and sister Neil and Laura Moran at the Playa, Minster
Brother and sister Neil and Laura Moran at the Playa, Minster

Laura Moran, who runs the venue with her brother Neil, said: "Concerns have been raised about the mobile bar attracting crowds of people to the beach from other parts of the county and therefore putting our residents at risk.

"For us, this was a way to claw back some of our lost trade. Being one of the very few businesses on the Island which did not qualify for the government grant it has been a real struggle to keep things ticking over.

"However, the people who keep us ticking over all year round are our local community and therefore we must listen and act on their concerns, as we have done since this pandemic began."

The pub is running an off-licence for pre-booked orders and a pre-booked takeaway food service but on Friday it launched a limited takeaway at its front door from noon for burgers and fish and chips.

Laura said: "The amount of orders we received at the weekend overwhelmed us. We are so grateful to everyone. It is pretty scary for us all but we are doing all we can to keep this business going. We are resilient, we adapt and have a huge passion for our trade. When we do open, we will have a few surprises up our sleeves for you all."

Staff have also been out helping to clean up litter left on The Leas.

Two Suns trawler leaving harbour at Queenborough, Sheppey
Two Suns trawler leaving harbour at Queenborough, Sheppey

The crews of Two Suns have carried on going to sea during the lockdown and have been landing fresh catches for the its shop at Lime Kiln Wharf, Queenborough.

Stones Garden Centre in Halfway Road, Sheerness, reopened after introducing a series of new measures, including a second entrance to allow one-way traffic, on Monday, May 18.

It is open 10am to 5pm seven days a week but only allows two people per household and up to 20 trolleys at a time.

There is "grab and go" shopping only with no browsing.

Making a new entrance at Stones Garden Centre, Sheerness
Making a new entrance at Stones Garden Centre, Sheerness

Its Facebook page warns: "We cannot offer advice like we usually do, or walk around the centre with you as much as we’d love to, so please limit your questions. We’re on limited staff and everyone is allocated a job."

"Please do not treat this as a day out. It still needs to be an essential trip for essential items."

No dogs are allowed and toilets are off-limits.

The Heritage, Sheppey's first micropub at Halfway, was one of the first hostelries to introduce beer and cider deliveries at the start of the lockdown. It is open for collection from 5pm to 8pm Tuesdays to Thursdays, 4pm to 8pm on Fridays, noon to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm Saturdays and noon to 2pm Sundays. It is closed Mondays.

Orders can be left 24-hours a day using the Brew2You app.

The Leysdown Boot Fair is to reopen on Sunday, June 7, with single-file, one-way aisles, hand sanitiser, an attendant at the toilets and new safety guidelines. Owner Henry Cooper said: "If it goes well, we will continue every Sunday unless the government advises otherwise. It may be prudent to wear masks for additional protection."

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