Eggs, flour, plants and compost among top sellers at Thatched House and Duchess
Thatched House pub staff sell food and flowers & bedding plants. Picture: Darren Pepe
“We even had one customer come with a wheelbarrow to take away some compost” says Hammersmith pub manager, James Fitzgerald.
Usually he's busy serving up pints of beer and roast dinners for customers to enjoy in the pub.
But right now staff at the Thatched House pub are also selling groceries – and bedding plants and compost.
Mr Fitzgerald said a lot of customers near the pub in Dalling Road in Hammersmith are itching to get gardening. So he and his team set up a twice- weekly delivery of bedding plants from a nursery in Kent.
“Whatever they want we can order, like compost,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
And since the lockdown called time on pubs serving drinks to thirsty customers, The Thatched House and its sister pub, the Duchess, in Goldhawk Road, have become temporary grocery stores.
It means that whilst regular events like the Tuesday night craft sessions and themed meal nights including “mussel madness” are on hold, the pub is serving up groceries and take-away roast dinners instead.
The Thatched House dates back to 1855 and it's thought there may have been a hostelry there since the middle ages.
Thatched House pub. Picture: Darren Pepe
And 12 staff have been furloughed between the two hostelries – with just five people still at work.
Mr Fitzgerald said: “We have opened a little grocery store selling vegetables and all the essentials and we are also doing a flower market because people want to go gardening. So we are selling bedding plants and things for hanging baskets.”
And he said eggs and flour are the top selling groceries which are hard to source in the shops sometimes.
“Because we use a wholesale supplier we are getting in 16kg bags of flour, white flour and wholemeal flour, and we are dividing it up.”
They are also selling pasta, fresh bread and cornflakes and alcohol to take away.
“We can't sell draft but we are doing canned beer bottles, wine, prosecco, champagne. We have taken all the fridges out from behind the bar and put them at the front of the pub and people are walking in and choosing.
“We had loads of orders on Easter Sunday for people wanting their Easter roast lamb.”
He said the team are letting two people in at at time to ensure social distance and customers can pay over the phone.
People who pre-order can collect their purchases from a table at the front.
And Mr Fitzgerald said some of the customers were regulars at the pub whilst others are valuing a trip to a local store and a socially distanced chance to have a short chat over their shopping.
“We have a lot of customers who are customers of the pub, we have single older people who have not got the same social life at the moment,” he said.
“We are surrounded by a lot of older people and we have a retirement home next door.”
He said some customers say they find it easier to visit his shop with just two shoppers in at a time rather than the bigger stores in the centre of Hammersmith.
In normal times The Thatched House prides itself on its own “great relaxing garden” where people enjoy BBQs and private parties and a private dining room in the orangery which can cater for up to 100 people.
Mr Fitzgerald said he was not sure what the future will hold for the pub, like so many up and down the country.
“It depends on how long we are going to be closed for. If we are closed for a long time I think people are going to get out of the habit of pub culture. They may be sitting at home having their drinks.
“If there are conditions – like sitting far apart that will work and people will be delighted to come.”
But he said he worries that if people are hard hit financially they might not have the spare cash to spend.
“If there's a downturn, people will just not have the money to have dinner,” he said.
However his team are staying positive and watching the news to prepare for the day they can reopen as a pub.
Husband and wife team Basil and Jenna Fansa have set up a website to help people find the some of the businesses which are open or delivering during the lockdown – so far they've detailed around 1,000 including restaurants, bookshops and foodstores on www.myvirtualneighbourhood.com .
They said pubs like the Thatched House are showing how resilient and inventive businesses can be.
Mr Fansa said: “Times are harder than they have ever been yet independent businesses are showing incredible resilience.
“Lockdown is an awful thing to endure, but London's army of independent shops and restaurants offering to deliver hot meals, wine, fresh fish, cheese, meat, veg and pastries to your door will certainly make it more bearable.”
Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter