Posted on July 10 2023
On Mondays, our Rotherham Yella Brick Road is open as normal 10am until 5pm. Next door, our café-bar is also open but on restricted hours of 11am until 5pm and with no food served. This often provokes looks of absolute confusion and comments along the lines of “nowhere seems to be open in Rotherham on a Monday” and “why don’t you try and pick up those customers by serving food?”
The answer is simple, and it’s the reason for most decisions at both Yella and OTR; cash… or more to the point, the availability of it and the risks associated with spending it.
First, I want to return to the opening paragraph and one of those recurring comments, namely that nowhere in Rotherham is open on a Monday. While it’s an exaggeration and plenty of places are indeed open for business every day of the week, there’s no doubt that Mondays (like Sundays) see many businesses keep their doors closed in the town centre.
Indeed, even as I glance up and down High Street where YBR and OTR trade, I can see that only a handful of businesses open their doors. And I can entirely sympathise with the reasons why. The majority of us in this part of town are independents. Many of us run our own businesses; both insofar as their management and physical service provision go.
There are hairdressers, cafes, delis, retailers, bars, tattooists and more that are staffed with the same faces you see Tuesday to Saturday. These people need days off (though there’s rarely such a thing when you’re self-employed.) They’re on their feet from early until late, getting back problems, getting fatigued, never seeing a seat until hometime. The expectation that they should work more than those five days is somewhat harsh to say the least!
The argument is of course to get some (or more) staff. Well, unfortunately it’s not that easy. Firstly, the investment in staff to open on days when few shops do is risky. Secondly, these hours may only be part time which unfortunately few people want. It’s also worth noting that many businesses (such as hairdressers) are run by people with the actual skills that are central to the business and there’s no point in employing staff. Then throw in other complications such as perishable goods wastage, utility costs, hitting the VAT threshold and more, and it becomes an almost futile venture.
So, “why” I hear you ask, “do you open on a Monday?” Well, in addition to our bricks and mortar shop, Yella of course has a busy website, so orders need to be picked, packed and dispatched. And in the case of Over the Rainbow, we like to think the two businesses go hand-in-hand now. We want people to be able to pop down for a shop and a drink. But unfortunately not food… because that requires investing in staff, stock and utilities! So, there you go, if you’ve ever been puzzled why we can’t serve grub on a Monday, it’s because there’s only one of us working there.
Additionally, we’ve been very lucky with the teams we’ve assembled through the years. At Yella, Kirsty and Evie know everything inside out and regularly scold the bosses for any errors. They run the business in our occasional absence and with no fuss at all. We’ve recently made a decision to start opening even more hours to help the business grow (i.e. some Sundays and late night Thursdays) and they’ve agreed without complaint.
Then next door at OTR, we have Rosie and Rae running things. The former seems to know the orders of everyone who comes in the café like some sort of coffee clairvoyant. She gets on with everyone and everyone adores her (despite her unrelenting peppiness). And Rae bangs out delicious plate after delicious plate with zero issue that she works in a tiny HOT kitchen.
These four are complimented by fantastic part time Saturday staff. Seriously, when did young people become so eager to work and do everything they’re asked with competence and enthusiasm. They make me utterly sick.
Basically, while the gaffers work every day (one of us is in the middle of a 13 day in-shop/café streak), it is our lottery like win with our staff that gives us the confidence to leave early to get the kids or get our beards trimmed. Alas, not every indie is this lucky.
One odd comment that we heard recently was that as a business, Over the Rainbow opens late hours on some nights for the reasons of fostering community spirit. It was a lovely comment, and nice that someone would think that of us, but good grief no. Sadly, most indies run their businesses close to the knuckle these days and have very little money to invest in opening for community reasons. To put it bluntly, we’re skint and have to make enough money from every hour to justify our opening the doors!
We do of course love our customers and a large number of them have turned into friends through the years. We also admire the close-knit community of Rotherham folk who try their best for the town in multiple ways. But if we lose money because we stay open late one night of the week, it may mean we have to close full stop.
All of this is a long-winded way of asking people to be patient with indies in Rotherham and other towns and cities throughout the UK. Times is tough at the moment for everyone, and this is really being reflected in High Street spending. If this means that hours seem a little bit confusing and inconsistent, there are genuine reasons behind it.
Finally, thanks as ever you lot for spending your (very) hard earned with Yella and OTR. Our children also thank you for contributing to them wearing shoes.
P.S. We’ve not mentioned Yella Sheffield for good reason and will cover it in a future blog post.