Getting back to square one

Getting back to square one

By Marco Holden Jeffery

For many retailers in Collins Square, the last few weeks of June provided a glimmer of hope after a tough period in lockdown.

And despite the latest revision of restrictions flattening slightly the return of customers, Pure Pie co-owner Matthew Carthew was grateful to be open.

“We’ve been lucky because we haven’t been paying rent, but obviously we want to get staff back to work and get the money coming back in the till,” he said.

Before the pandemic, businesses in Collins Square relied heavily on the 20,000 workers in the Square’s commercial towers as well as those from the nearby offices of the big banks, and without them the once-buzzing retail and hospitality hub was practically deserted.

Pure Pie, which has remained open throughout the lockdown, has managed to keep trading thanks to a focus on online sales, deliveries and other opportunities to connect with customers.

“We do farmer markets on the weekend and they’ve been going the whole time - that’s the main reason we’ve stayed open,” Mr Carthew said.

Despite the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Victoria, other retailers in the Square who shut their doors or moved their services online during the lockdown have started to reopen.

Wellness centre Mellobarre managed to maintain a connection with its community of clients over the pandemic by offering free daily virtual classes.

Studio manager Allie Veall said business had been “a lot slower than what other people may have anticipated” since they reopened on June 22, but was confident a slew of new class offerings would help things pick up in the weeks to come.

Mellobarre has offered one or two in-person classes a week, all observing social distancing and other health requirements, while continuing to run other classes and corporate workshops online.

Walker Corporation chief operating officer David Gallant said Collins Square would continue to provide support, including “marketing assistance and regulatory resources”, to retailers as they waited for Docklands’ office workforce to return.

“Our small business retailers at Collins Square are a big part of what makes the precinct so vibrant and diverse,” he said.

Other returning business at Collins Square included Anytime Fitness and Tribute Boxing, who both reopened on June 22 with rearranged equipment to maintain social distancing.

Restaurants Lily Li and Mr Collins both reopened on June 1 and were accepting up to 20 dine-in customers at a time •

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