THE re-opening of non-essential shops wasn’t all about the bigger chains, with customers queuing to support the smaller businesses who had also kicked back into action.

Jewellers, blinds shops, shoe repair stores, vape shops and a whole host of other businesses in high streets across Billericay and Wickford were eager to return to some sense of normality, despite many enforcing a one-person rule to keep customers safe on their return.

Jordan Port, manager at The Vapers Cove, Wickford, said: “We’ve been doing collection and delivery for seven weeks but today was our first day back in the shop. It felt so strange even though I’ve been coming in to sort out the collections; it was really nice to actually be able to see our customers again in person.

"We’re more than just a business, we get to know them all especially our regulars who used to pop in for a half-hour chat.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Now we’re only allowing one person in the shop at a time to make sure everyone is social distancing.”

Martin Palfrey from shoe repair firm Moore’s Ltd, in Wickford, said: “I was quite nervous to come back, but it definitely gives us a sense of normality.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Protected - Martin Palfrey from Moore’s Ltd, in Wickford

"I’ve been with the firm for 40 years so it was weird to be off for such a long time, but it’s so nice to see shoppers’ faces again.”

Zoe Lumsden, shop assistant at Billericay Blinds, added: “We’ve been shut since March 23, but I never expected it to be this busy- we had people calling all morning booking out our diary.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Store assistant - Zoe Lumsden, from Billericay Blinds

“We’ve got splash screens, hand sanitiser and gloves to make things as safe as possible.”