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2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges for cheesemakers and mongers, but it’s hard to find a business that adapted as quickly to the ‘new normal’ – or with as much care for its local community – as George & Joseph Cheesemongers. Business boomed in lockdown, and George & Joseph went the extra mile to ensure that both new and old customers could enjoy a special treat – or get the essential supplies that supermarkets were lacking throughout the pandemic. In and out of the shop, George & Joseph was there for locals when they needed it the most.
Founder Stephen Fleming said George & Joseph was inundated with orders as the Covid-19 crisis hit. To keep up with demand, he revived a service offering free delivery within six miles of the shop. “We’d always offered it, but no one had ever taken us up on it,” Stephen explained. From just one or two orders over the last few years, suddenly George & Joseph’s online business was exploding.
The online ordering and delivery service was “invaluable” to locals – particularly those who were shielding. “To some people, we deliver just one loaf of bread, or one or two pieces of cheese. That’s probably costing us money to fulfill that, but to keep our customers in a good place, it’s worth doing,” Stephen said.
At the start of the pandemic, George & Joseph only had a few cheeses listed on its website, so to ensure that locals could access all that the shop had to offer, the cheesemonger took the incredible step of shifting nearly its entire offering to its website – including basic provisions like eggs, bread and milk.
“It’s a time-consuming job, taking photographs and writing descriptions, but now we’re beginning to reap the benefits of all that hard work.”
George & Joseph is supported by a wealth of loyal customers who praise the team for its cheese knowledge and insight as well as the role that the shop’s events – in person and, now, online – have in bringing the community together.
Thank you letters and positive feedback filled Stephen’s inbox after the lockdown – but it wasn’t just regulars who were showing their appreciation. Supermarket loyalty went out the window at the start of the pandemic, much to the benefit of those like George & Joseph who were prepared to step in to support their local communities. “We had a lot of new customers coming in who were self-confessed supermarket addicts,” Stephen said.
“They found that we had plenty of stock, we had nice, friendly staff, we didn’t have big queues. People felt safe with us,” he added.
Looking back, Stephen is proud of the way the business responded to the crisis, and credits Covid-19 with providing the kick that he needed to make some big changes. “It’s been a very strange year with Covid, but in a way we’ve shifted the business forward several steps,” he says. With a host of interactive online events planned for 2021, George & Joseph will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in the local community – something that’s needed now more than ever.
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