A HOST of businesses across Helensburgh and Lomond reopened their doors to customers for the first time this year on Monday - and the Advertiser was there to welcome them back.

We caught up with pub and shop owners, restaurant staff and members of the public as lockdown restrictions eased.

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IN Helensburgh, the town’s Oxfam store in Colquhoun Square, and other local and national charity shops, have missed out on many traditional fund-raising opportunities.

Graham Newport, manager at the Burgh shop, told of his delight at seeing a small queue outside the store when it reopened at 8am.

He said: “Today has shown that the people of Helensburgh are really supportive because they came first thing.

“We’re really lucky here, we’ve got very generous donors in Helensburgh, very good quality items, people that consistently donate, and all of a sudden all that income was gone, it was lost.

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“There were a lot of people around the world who rely on the money generated from the shops that we couldn’t help.

“Being on furlough and keeping in touch with my team was hard because I wanted to make sure they were all OK.

“I was phoning them every week, writing to them, sending out Easter treats, that sort of thing, and every time I had a message or a phone call my heart was lifted.

“For me this lockdown has been a lot harder than last year’s. I’ve worked all my life and I’ve never had that much time off work.

"It was nice getting back to doing things I hadn’t done for a long time but then the novelty started to wear off. Over the winter it’s been a lot harder for all of us.”

Volunteer Samantha Duncan noted the mental health benefits of the ‘unlocking’ process.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Helensburgh's Oxfam store opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2021Helensburgh's Oxfam store opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2021

She said: “I love being back at work.

“Being off for such a long time was hard but it’s nice just to be back with the people I like to work with.

“I’ve missed the community spirit, chatting to customers and finding out how their day has been, but also working with my boss as well.

“It’s nice to get back to some form of normality, and it’s good for people’s mental health as well. Being able to just go shopping and do your usual stuff that you’d normally do before the pandemic, it’s nice.

“I don’t have any concerns about going out to public places, for my mental health I need to get back out there.

“I’ve had my two jabs, so that’s given me a bit of easiness. OK it doesn’t give you full protection but at least it gives me some.”

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Miranda Carlisle, who is set to become deputy store manager at  the Oxfam shop, said she felt “estatic to be back”.

“I’m a single mum,” she said, “so I spent the majority of lockdown at home with my child, so it’s nice to be able to have a different change of scenery and get to meet people again and talk to my colleagues. It’s refreshing to be back.

“I underestimated the importance of routine before all of this happened.

“I’m looking forward to seeing people come into the shop and being enthusiastic about purchasing something.

“Before lockdown a lot of people would just go for a browse in charity shops, whereas now people want to get back to the shops, there’s an urgency there and a lot of people have discovered just how essential charity shops are - they’re not there just for people’s old junk, they’re actually a valuable part of society.”