By Betsy Everett
For Ellie and John Bates the dream of a new life in the country nearly turned into a nightmare.
Just 12 weeks after opening the newly-refurbished Chapel Gallery in the Dales market town of Hawes, which had stood empty for three years, the Covid pandemic lockdown forced them to close.
With no income from their new venture, and a costly refurbishment to pay for, it could hardly have come at a worse time.
But, amazingly, says Ellie, things have worked out better than they could ever have imagined: they reopened two weeks ago to showcase and sell the work of around 40 local craftspeople and artists, having worked on the building, which is also their home, since acquiring it in July last year.
“We had had a lot of work done, including a new roof and windows, repainting and redesigning the interior, and it was so exciting to see it finished and be able to open in time for Christmas last year.
“We didn’t have to search for people to exhibit and sell their work, they came to us, and we have some fabulous artists and craftspeople. The scaffolding came down at the end of February and then less than a month later, in March, we were forced to close,” said Ellie.
Fortunately, however, they were able to access government grants for small businesses and John, working in Bradford as IT manager for a major supermarket chain, was able to work from home.
It meant they could enjoy family life with their two-year-old son, Quinn, and Paddy the springer spaniel.
“John had been working away during the week so we only had him home at weekends. Having him here during lockdown was a real benefit,” said Ellie, and they are hoping it will continue for some time.
The family moved from Leeds almost exactly a year ago to begin work on the chapel which stands at the east entrance to Hawes at Town Foot.
They have strict measures in place to ensure the safety of their customers who can have coffee and cake while they shop. Entry is restricted to 12 people at a time.
They are hoping to provide outdoor shelter for buggies and prams if the planners allow and also to develop the basement as a 12-bunk barn.