Lovely to see you here on this great website although nothing quite beats the physical meeting does it? We are all really missing interaction during these strange and worrying times, aren’t we? The last 11 months has taken its toll on everyone, both physically and mentally so we really need 2021 to bring us all hope that life will return to where we can enjoy all the freedom we used to take for granted. Mixing with friends, hugs, live music, spending the morning in a coffee shop, holidays, family gatherings, eating out …. the list is endless!
Life didn’t stop for us in 2020 it just changed! None of us saw the changes coming that 2020 brought us when we were enjoying our usual January routines last year but learning to react to those changes positively has been the biggest challenge we faced.
For nearly 15 years Heart Gallery has been my Bricks & Mortar baby. I fulfilled not only my own dream in 2006 but one that my sister had believed in. She had faith in me right up until the day she took her own life so opening the big black door to The Arts Centre in September 2006 was a very proud moment indeed. I had converted a former Baptist Chapel into a warm and inviting Gallery space to showcase all the wonderful local and UK based artists I had chosen for their craftmanship. I wanted to embrace their creativity and to celebrate design, colour, form and function all under one roof. The passion I had on that first day is still with me today even though 2020 did try it’s best to squeeze it out!
Looking back at the last 15 years makes me feel so proud of what I have achieved; championing local and UK artists back in 2006 was much harder than it is today! (Thankfully more and more people now seek out quality, handmade products made right here on our own doorstep or in the UK which has made my job so much easier!) However, looking back serves little purpose other than to be nostalgic and planning ahead, adapting and looking forward is what is now needed to survive and thrive.
Throughout all the various lockdowns last year some customers may have started shopping locally out of necessity but by doing so they discovered local shops that they had not even set foot in before! There has been a beating heart in Hebden Bridge for many years that not even Covid-19 could take away!
I know the enthusiasm to be able to go somewhere real and physically touch things and buy things rather than just placing another order online will not go away. That sense of community is still so strong and small independent shops like Heart Gallery play a huge part in that community; I firmly believe that without small indies there is no community. Seeing our Hebden Bridge community coming together to support each other in any way they could since last year’s floods in February followed by the pandemic has been extraordinary; neighbourliness, decency, courtesy is still alive. This has just strengthened my hope that our Hebden Bridge High Street will continue to attract locals and visitors alike for many years to come.
The resilience of our town’s businesses has shone through with all the innovative ways we have found to reach out to our customers. So many of us have made full use of social media to engage with people to encourage them to support us. I’ve offered private one to one shopping appointments for those who are nervous about busy places or have felt vulnerable as have some of my retail neighbours. Cargodale’s dedicated team of enthusiastic bike riders with their zero emission delivery services were seen zipping round our tiny lanes and steep hills delivering from local food suppliers.
Surviving last year has been really tough and we still have some challenging months ahead. What I have seen though is that people are looking for warmth, engagement and interaction.
We can’t lose the high street, where will people meet, gather, chat? Heart Gallery offers a warm and inviting space for people to shop safely in with a limit of only 12 customers in at any one time so I do truly believe we can remain in Hebden Bridge for many years to come.
However, when we had to close to follow government guidelines last March our selling opportunity disappeared immediately, faster than Cinderella’s coach at midnight! Why? Because I didn’t sell online! I had always said that the experience of shopping in Heart Gallery was something I could not achieve virtually so although I have a website, I don’t have a selling website. That stubbornness to not embrace clicks has bitten me on the bum! I was extremely grateful that I could have a small shop of our smaller items on the Totally Locally Hebden Bridge High Street website when it launched last September. Although it’s only a tiny representation of what Heart Gallery offers it means our local customers can support us safely from the comfort of their own home!
What can you see in this statement below?
I saw this as OPPORTUNITY IS NOW HERE and so I used some of the ‘down time’ that lockdown provided to think about how I see Heart Gallery evolving in the future to make sure it remains sustainable in the ever-changing retail landscape. My customers trust me, they know the provenance of a piece, so I have finally realised that this trust will translate to buying from Heart Gallery online. When you love what you do that passion is infectious and my customers feel that passion when they visit Heart Gallery. I have to find a way to translate that passion on to a flat screen so I do know this will be a challenge … but I love a good challenge!
I am a warrior not a worrier (most of the time) so 2021 is the year I have to battle with my previous insecurities of stepping out of my comfort zone and facing my fear of the virtual world! It won’t happen overnight as I need to take baby steps and celebrate each mini victory; each step a small success and a stepping stone to achieving a realistic goal.
I do hope that you will continue to visit Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge as I still believe nothing can replace the physical shopping experience we offer. But please be patient with me whilst I attempt to make your virtual Heart Gallery a destination I am equally proud of.