Put something under a massive amount of pressure, and it will become a diamond.
That’s what it’s like with small traders at the moment.
So it’s hardly surprising that a hard-pressed Lewisham café owner has been handpicked to star in a nationwide campaign to help independent businesses get back on their feet.
Rosy Garsi, owner of Two Spoons, a high street spot in Honor Oak Park, is being featured on billboards across the country as part of the Open Like Never Before campaign.
It is designed to remind consumers to support their local venues after a challenging time for the hospitality sector.
The café is now emblazoned across billboards at Waterloo railway station, as well as on digital advertising screens across South London.
“It is awkward seeing yourself on a big screen,” said Rosy, 34, whose partner Luca is a former manager at China Tang, a restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, Mayfair.
“No one has recognised me yet, so fame will have to wait.”
“It was so lucky because the Coca-Cola manager came to our shop to recruit us in July and if he had come only a few minutes later we would have been closed for the day.
“It’s a great opportunity for us because we are a very small business. We have been working all the way through the lockdown and it was a real struggle – but now we have an extra pair of hands to help us spread the word that we are here for our local community.
“This campaign is going to be a massive boost, that’s for sure.”
Rosy, of Crystal Palace, who has previously worked at nearby Baxter Story and also at an anti-trafficking charity in South Africa, added: “The future is very uncertain since the Prime Minister went on TV, but we hope customers will support small businesses – we don’t have the same resources as big corporations.
“We love being in Honor Oak, 40 seconds from the rail station, because it is like being in a small village but in London. It has a great atmosphere.”
The Open Like Never Before campaign aims to support hundreds of small hospitality businesses which have seen the number of customers drop due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two Spoons has remained open thanks to the support of loyal customers – even working with a local charity to provide 20 meals per week for people in local care homes throughout lockdown.
Rosy said: “Small businesses have a major impact on people’s lives. They help connect people and communities.
“We used to take it for granted but when you are locked in your home, you realise you are missing your daily routine, whether that’s getting a coffee, having a short brunch, or chatting with friends in a small café.
“These are the little things you do not normally notice until they are gone.”
Around 12 per cent of hospitality businesses said customer numbers had returned to normal since they were allowed to reopen on July 4, while 42 per cent – or more than two fifths – of those which have reopened, said they would need sales to increase quickly for their business to survive.
Pictured top: Rosy Garsi in front of one of the billboards
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