Covid grant secures historic business's future in town centre

Steve Grimwood of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND

Steve Grimwood of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Archant

You do not keep a business successful for almost 100 years without seeing some changes - but for one of Ipswich's oldest businesses Covid saw it questioning its future in the town centre.

Elmy Cycles, based in St Helen's Street in Ipswich, was established in 1922 but when the pandemic hit it became "tougher to have confidence", says director Steve Grimwood. 

As a town centre retailer, he said the lack of people and shops disappearing was a real worry - so much so that there was a risk the bicycle shop would quit its long term home for one of the retail parks further out of town. 

Steve Grimwood of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND

Steve Grimwood of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Archant

Mr Grimwood said: "Covid grants meant we could stay committed to the centre of Ipswich rather than taking the easy route to move further out. 

"It's a real shame that it is so much cheaper and easier to be based in the retail parks, but when people began to realise the extent of what the pandemic could bring, the council reached out to retailers and it's been refreshing to know that they're listening." 

Grant money from Ipswich Borough Council was used at Elmy's to invest in a better website system.

A new employee was taken on to manage that side of the business which gave customers the chance to check online before visiting the store to see what they wanted was in stock.

Steve Grimwood and Jo, of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND

Steve Grimwood and Jo, of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Archant

"A business doesn't work for 100 years without adaptation and evolution," Mr Grimwood said. "When I first started to work here around 30 years ago we didn't even have an electric till. 

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"Covid made us all think about how we were doing things and what we could do differently to invest in the important things. 

"There are ways to get people back into town centres and I think a lot is being done to improve areas like the waterfront and St Peter's Street, but the first step has to be talking to the people and businesses that use these places every day.

"I do congratulate Russell Williams, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, for doing that during the pandemic and making us feel valued as a part of Ipswich." 

Steve Grimwood of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND

Steve Grimwood of Elmy Cycles Ipswich PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Archant

Unlike many other products, demand for bicycles did not waver in lockdown - Mr Grimwood acknowledges that there was a swing towards people seeking out this healthy and clean alternative to public transport. 

"People wanted bicycles. There was no gym at a time where more people were seeing a need to be fit and healthy, nobody was sure about travelling on public transport, they're greener; bicycles are a good thing in every way." 

The business will reach its centenary early next year - and there are plans to celebrate.