Piako Post

Tough times for small business

- TE AOREWA ROLLESTON

As the phasing out of vaccine mandates, QR scanning and the checking of vaccine passes comes into effect, for some small businesses, it is a matter of whether they have enough steam left to carry on.

For Shelley Hughes, this is a constant thought on her mind as she reflects on the two-year-long journey of the pandemic.

Hughes and her husband Bevan own the Ironique Cafe in the central Waikato town of Te Aroha.

Their cafe has been a special and somewhat sentimenta­l possession as it was first owned by her mother-in-law over two decades ago before it was passed down.

But the adversity their family business has faced due to the turbulence of Covid-19 has meant they’ve often wondered whether they could get up again after being hit so many times.

‘‘We’ve certainly been scraping the barrel,’’ Hughes said.

‘‘The last few months have probably been one of our toughest...from the very start two years ago, we’ve never recovered.

‘‘From the first lock down to the second lock down we had never recovered, so you’re already that 40-50 per cent down, and then it happens again.’’

Hughes took over the Ironique from her mother-in-law three years ago.

The heart of their cafe is their staff, she said, as they have kept the business going.

But staffing levels have been one of the heavier sacrifices Hughes has had to make with 18 staff gradually turning into seven.

Operating hours have also dropped with a seven-day and fivenight week reduced to seven days only due to under-staffing and a loss of customer turn-out.

‘‘We certainly have hurt tremendous­ly,’’ Hughes said.

‘‘We’ve had to close our evening restaurant, it just wasn’t viable to stay open.

‘‘But it’s not just the business, it’s the staff, you know they suffer as well, and I guess without the government subsidies over the time, we certainly wouldn’t have our doors open today.’’

The business had been targeted by people who have disagreed with the Covid-19 rules surroundin­g vaccine mandates, which was difficult to handle.

The Hughes have also relied heavily on government grants and subsidies available which has kept them afloat.

But in a couple of weeks, Hughes said that money will be gone.

‘‘I don’t know if it’s enough,’’ said Hughes.

‘‘Certainly some weeks you’re just thinking ‘how are we going to make ends meet this week?’

‘‘Surprising­ly, most days are pretty average in terms of turnover...but then all of a sudden one day out of the week it might be a bit better, and it’s like ‘thank god for that’.

For the Hughes and their family business, the loosening of Covid-19 rules could not have come sooner, but they know they are not out of the woods yet.

The weeks to come will decide whether Ironique will stay in the family or not, but they were hopeful that the community would be there to give them the boost they needed to push ahead.

‘‘I really do hope it does make the difference.’’

‘‘The last few months have probably been one of our toughest... from the very start two years ago, we’ve never recovered. ’’

Shelley Hughes

Ironique Cafe

 ?? ?? For Ironique Cafe co-owner Shelley Hughes, the loosening of Covid-19 rules could not have come sooner, but they know they are not out of the woods yet.
For Ironique Cafe co-owner Shelley Hughes, the loosening of Covid-19 rules could not have come sooner, but they know they are not out of the woods yet.

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