IT HAS been a quiet first week in Penarth as the town starts to come back to life and embrace the new normal, but business owners in the town say there is plenty to be optimistic about.

Business owners that have been open for some time said they have seen a slight drop in numbers since first minister Mark Drakeford’s announcement on Friday that non-essential retailers could open on Monday, but added that signs of apprehension are understandable.

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The consensus among shopkeepers is that there is no better place to be during a pandemic than Penarth – a town hell-bent on supporting its independent stores.

Toni Horne, proprietor of the Lily Pad florist, said while the last few weeks have been challenging, she is delighted to get back to work after opening on Wednesday.

“I’ve tried my best to make the best of a bad situation, and I’ve had a refurb – like many shops have in the town,” she said. “We have to look to the positives, and you don’t have to look too far to find them here.

“I’ve always known that it is a great community that supports its independent businesses, but it’s in times like this you realise the extent of good will in the town.”

Ms Horne, like other retailers opening their doors this week, says her attention has now switched to making sure customers feel “as safe as possible”.

She’ll be operating a one in one out system, and added: “It’s so important that the customers trust us, and as business owners we have to realise too that it might take some time for people to bounce back.”

Cathy O’Doherty, joint owner of Glass by Design on Station Approach – which opened on Tuesday - has used more than half of her £10,000 business grant making sure students and customers are safe.

Mrs O’Doherty and business partner Angelina Hall have spent thousands setting up a large set of Perspex cubicles so glasswork students can work safely, and the business can survive.

“If we didn’t do something drastic I don’t think we’d have had a business to come back to,” said Mrs O’Doherty.

Mrs O’Doherty says the period has been the most challenging in the business’s four years due to the amount of equipment they’ve had to invest in too.

“We knew the virus wasn’t going to disappear any time soon, so we’ve had to buy lots of equipment to make sure no-one has to share anything.

“We are positive it will be worth it. Our business would have been unlikely to survive if it was selling material in a shop.”

She is hopeful that business will pick up again over the next few months.

“People won’t be able to on holiday and will want to do different things in their leisure time, so we are hopeful,” she added.

Molly Utting, manager of Brod Danish bakery, which reopened in May, said she has seen a slight drop in custom this week, but has confidence people will begin to turn out again.

“It’s so important that people support independent stores, because it’s a major reason why so many people visit the town,” she said.

Brod has implemented strict social distancing measures, with customers ordering from outside. Mrs Utting says this is unlikely to change in the short-term.

“It’s easy for us to do it like this and it isn’t essential for people to come in and sit down, so we felt it was the best option to keep everyone safe,” she said.

Jean-Marc Delys, joint owner at Fauvette, which has been open throughout lockdown, said he is “really pleased to see the town returning to some form of normality”.

“We’ve been very lucky that we were able to stay open as well as do deliveries, and I feel as though we have managed to get through the situation pretty well financially,” he said. “Over the last couple of weeks it has really picked up for us.”

Mr Delys says the challenges for him mentally during lockdown have been tough.

“It is a very special place for me and has always had a real buzz,” he added. “I have to be happy because we are a happy cheese and wine business, but it is hard to keep spirits up when the streets are empty.

“I can’t wait to see more people on the streets. I’m sure Penarth will be absolutely fine.”