A Darlington café has bounced back post-Covid by extending the business with its owners saying the death of town centres has been greatly exaggerated.
During pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, Hatch Luncheonette, in Blackwellgate, which is run by Jasmin and Phil Robson, became a takeaway business.
Once it was able to welcome customers back inside, the premises often became congested as its takeaways still were proving popular.
To meet this demand and ease space pressure at Hatch, the couple have taken over and converted premises next door into Htch To Go, which is open seven days a week.
The conversion work at the former health supplements shop was carried out by Darlington building contractor Wharton Construction.
As well as offering hot and cold drinks and sandwiches, Htch To Go sells a selection of artisan products, such as soaps and candles, greetings cards, coffee-related gifts, and plants.
Since the conversion work was completed, both the café, which is open Wednesday to Sunday, and the new separate takeaway have been doing a roaring trade.
The takeaway extension has led to the recruitment of a barista/front of house member of staff taking the total workforce to five full-time and four part-time employees.
Jasmin, who with Phil also owns Hash bar and kitchen, in Coniscliffe Road, Darlington, said: “Along with many other businesses, Hatch had to demonstrate agility to navigate the challenges created by the pandemic.
“Thankfully, we more than coped and now are delighted to have bounced back better and stronger so much so it has given us the confidence to extend the business.
“In our experience reports of the death of the high street are over-exaggerated. For town centres to survive and thrive, the types of businesses located there have to evolve to reflect changes in people’s spending and buying habits.
“These days there seems to be more of a demand for social rather than retail activities, but we believe the ‘high street’ still has a strong future and we are proof of this.
“We are finding that we are busier than ever and are attracting customers both old and new.”
Matthew Wharton, director of Wharton Construction, said: “It is fantastic to see that Jasmin and Phil have such confidence in the future of Darlington town centre.
“Businesses, such as Hatch Luncheonette and Htch To Go, have a vital part to play in ensuring that the heart of Darlington remains vibrant, viable and attractive to local people and visitors. As a local company we are delighted to support their growth.”