Local support helping Cessnock LGA businesses to survive

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: Staff at Branxton Bakery report local support has been unwavering during the coronavirus crisis.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: Staff at Branxton Bakery report local support has been unwavering during the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus has impacted lives and livelihoods across the Australia, and the Hunter has not been immune.

The heartening news has been strong support on the ground from local people supporting local businesses.

Branxton, located in the Cessnock local government area (LGA), is a good example.

The CBD, typical of small communities throughout the area, is made up of two clubs, one hotel, an IGA Supermarket and a plethora of small businesses providing goods and services that generally mean locals don't have to leave the area to get what they need.

"The worst affected businesses have been the hotel, clubs, beauty salon and local newspaper ... closed," Mike Lowing, editor of the Branxton Greta Vineyards News, said.

"The hotel and clubs are now providing takeaway meals but are unable to open with the number restrictions in place as it is not economically viable to cater for the very restricted numbers.

"This has necessitated the 'standing down' of a large number of, mainly local employees.

"The beauty salon has been closed by regulation but the local newspaper has had its printer close for the duration (at least until the end of next month)."

While Covid has hurt some businesses, Mike reports some have fared better through the crisis.

"The chemist, supermarket, pet shop and butchery have been doing well but the social distancing and maximum numbers has bought with it, in some cases, expensive measures to ensure that they are compliant with the 'lockdown' regulations.

"A surprise to me came after speaking to the operators of the Branxton Bakery who have actually increased their business during the current medical crisis."

Mary Nguyen, proprietor of the Branxton Bakery, said that they employ five casuals, do all baking onsite and up until last Friday, were unable to have any dining onsite.

"We are lucky to have the coal mining industry not skip a beat and the construction going on at the new commercial centre at Huntlee," Mary said.

"Also, while the mums and dads were home schooling they would arrive for a coffee, cake and a break.

"I would also like to say that our very valued customers adapted very quickly, are very supportive and in some instances, very patient."

Sue Mitchell, manager of the Branxton IGA, agreed with Mary's sentiments.

"The support from locals has been amazing," Sue said.

"People have been very understanding, patient and even offering to help and saying lots of positive stuff.

"People who might normally do their shopping at the bigger supermarkets have been coming in. That's been great because they see we have much more variety and niche local product than they thought."

President of the local Business Chamber, Brett Wild, said that the chamber has had great support from Cessnock Council which has got behind a number of stimuluses put forward by the chamber and council's economics resources unit.

"The latest initiative was the 'Support Local ~ Branxton' signs that were erected last week. I would like to thank Brian Furner for putting them up", Brett said.

"The initiative drives home the message that local buying supports local jobs and makes the community stronger by helping to keep money circulating in the region.

"We know that a lot of local businesses have been severely impacted and we, the business chamber, would hope that the recovery is quick and painless."