That was the challenge facing Dave Walker at All Brass and Woodwind in York Street. There was no easy option as he considered the future of his business – but having spent lockdown adjusting to the new normal he now has a completely renovated shop-front and has transformed his on-site music rehearsal space into a photographic studio.
Dave said: “Turnover is now 15 per cent of where it would normally be. You either keel over and die or you get on with it so that you’re ready when recovery comes. I decided to catch up on a lot of jobs. I got a grant from the government, paid three month’s rent, and used the rest to buy new wood and replace the front of the shop so it now looks like a beautiful art gallery. I had been trying to do it for 10 years.
“I’m a big believer in positive thinking. As people see my shop front now, they’ll think ‘he’s preparing for the future.’ If I were a customer, I would feel confident leaving a £3,000 saxophone here for repairs. They can trust that I’m still here and I’m still fighting.”
Dave took advantage of an offer of a rental holiday of two months from his landlord at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said: “I like The Arch Company. They were really good to me. Without that two month’s rent free, it would have been really difficult.
“I have a fantastic location with good security, fences, lots of parking. My shop’s in the centre of town but has a car park and big plot of land. I could have a 20-piece band in for rehearsing. For exam time, schools would lease the space and because it’s isolated, they could make as much noise as they wanted, but that’s not allowed now. I’ve had to adapt and now the rehearsal space has been converted into a photographic studio.”
Dave work with Armed Forces musicians as well as holding major contracts with education providers, but after COVID-19, none of them are playing. He believes he was better prepared than most for lockdown as he had been working in China, designing musical instruments there.
He said: “I started 40 years ago with repairs to brass instruments using blow torches and taking dents out of instruments. It’s quite complex. I started my own company 28 years ago. Then I got into designing my own instruments and was working two weeks every month with a factory in China. I was in Bejing earlier this year and only got back the week before the pandemic kicked off in the UK, or I’d have been stuck but it meant I knew what was coming a lot earlier. We clamped down earlier, before lockdown, and closed the shop for four weeks.
“It couldn’t get much worse. I’ve been in this job so long I know thousands of musicians. Currently I sell one instrument a week, if I’m lucky. I have enough to keep on one person who is self-employed. It’s really important to give people confidence that it’s safe for them to return to us and start supporting local businesses again. That’s why I’m supporting the National Arch Day campaign to try to bring our customers back.”
Arch 70/82, York Street, Leeds