Retail in the community: The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café

Retail in the community - The Old Moat Garden Centre & Cafe

Winner of the Good Retail Awards’ Community Award, The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café utilises its retail presence to create life-changing opportunities for those in the local area. Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with General Manager, Matt Ellis, about the team’s inspirational approach to retail in the community.

Meet The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café

Seeing themselves as a wellbeing service first and a garden centre second, the team at The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café continues to support an increasing number of people in their community. This is done through their work-based program for local people living with mental health challenges, giving them the confidence and skills to get back into employment.

Part of national mental health charity, Richmond Fellowship, they reinvest all profits into supporting the recovery of local people living with mental ill-health. The past year has brought countless challenges, including adapting throughout the pandemic and overcoming a devastating fire.

Despite the hurdles that they have faced, The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café was able to support clients when it wasn’t safe for them to come in, putting new technology to the test to maintain communication through phone calls, emails, WhatsApp and Zoom. When the nation entered the third lockdown on 6 January 2021, although they were legally able to stay open, the team chose to close to the public so they could continue their core function of supporting those with mental ill-health and enable them to attend the centre for in-person support, re-opening at the end of March. These decisions have enabled the team to celebrate a record-breaking year, introducing new opportunities and welcoming 31 new service users.

The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café - retail in the community

The importance of using retail in the community

Matt explained how much it means to work so closely with the local community.

“Hearing how much it means to those in the community and how much our support helps is so rewarding. I think that’s the main thing that’s been able to keep all our spirits so high and keep us going despite facing challenges in recent years. We get a lot of letters and thank you cards for the whole team and it’s all down to the people that work hard to make it happen every day. We refer to everyone involved as ‘The Old Moat Family’ and it really does feel like a family.”

Retail in the community: The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café

Finding solutions to challenges

The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café’s ability to find positives in every negative has played a pivotal role in not only overcoming the challenges they have faced in recent years, but to also come out the other side even stronger.

“It’s been one challenge after the next. The challenges have all happened at once, with Brexit restrictions impacting stock, becoming busier, having a fire and COVID occurring all around the same time. We’ve had to be very fast adapting and spin many plates. When we had the fire, we had to close the site as it destroyed the café office, toilets and part of the wooden roof. But we worked to complete the repairs as quickly as possible and the team used this time to work closely with service users, providing extra training in cake-baking, which could then be sold when we could re-open. We also took this time to review and relaunch the menu, as well as using it as an opportunity to remodel part of the café to be better than it was before.”

New menu - The Old Moat Garden Centre & Cafe

Winning at The Good Retail Awards

The team at The Old Moat Garden Centre and Café were delighted to hear of their success again at The Good Retail Awards, explaining what it means to their employees, volunteers and service users.

“The whole team and the service users are so chuffed with it. We’ve had so many messages of congratulations coming through, especially on Facebook. It’s amazing to hear so many great comments confirming what a good job we do and the difference that we make. We can often end up with our heads down, cracking on with the next task, so it’s really great to celebrate the positive news.”

Good Retail Awards

Upcoming plans

As with every retail business, there is no time to stand still. The Old Moat Garden Centre and Café has great plans to use retail in the community to continue to grow and support more people through a range of different methods.

“We’re going to focus on continuing our growth, so we can keep supporting more people. We recently got cabins where we can do training sessions and that we can make available to community groups for their own use. Upcoming projects include securing grant funding to restore our Grade II listed barn and convert it into a farm shop and events space, as well as getting in an additional trainer for two years. This alone is expected to allow us to support 10-15 more people living with mental ill-health at any one time. We have lots in the pipeline to continue helping more and more people.”

Retail in the community - Plant area - Garden Centre & Cafe

Click here to view the full list of Good Retail Awards 2022 winners.