In 2014 the Old Bush was closed. The centre of Callow End's community since a young Queen Victoria was on the throne, the pub had now been sold by the brewery, and plans were being drawn up to turn the premises into housing. Following a huge local effort, the pub was awarded a Community Asset status, meaning that it could only be used as a public house. To the relief of all, in January 2015 the Old Bush reopened under the safe guidance of Matt and Karen Williams. It didn't take long before the pub was once again the centre of people's lives, both locals and the scores of people who drive miles to sample the fine ales, great food, and convivial atmosphere of this jewel. Fast forward to 20th March, 2020, when, due to the spread of Coronavirus, pubs and restaurants in the UK were ordered to close their doors in an effort to contain the virus. After such a fight to reclaim it from being lost forever, it was vital that the lockdown would not claim the pub as a victim, and it became apparent that it would be necessary for the Old Bush to adapt in order to survive.
Having blithely talked about the possibility of opening a local store previous to the Covid pandemic, Matt Williams and Jules Benjamin decided that the best way to keep the pub operating was to push the tables - usually populated by the local’s beers - to the walls, and stack them with essentials. Following daily early morning raids on the local cash and carry, every couple of days saw the shop expand, taking in more and more lines, often at the behest of the customers. Almost immediately, daily deliveries were added to the service, to provide for the many old and vulnerable in the area that simply weren’t able to leave their homes.
Also, right from the start, Old Bush chef, Karen Williams, was keeping busy cooking takeaway meals for locals that were able to collect, all to the same exacting standard that pub regulars were used to.
After striking up deals with a quality greengrocer and a local bakery, the shop became complete, offering daily fresh bread, cakes, fruit & veg, dairy and meat, not to mention all of the essential items you might expect to find in a convenience store.
As we eased our way out of the lockdown, the Old Bush mini-mart had made a lot of friends, and become a part of the local’s shopping routine, so much so that it became clear that there was demand to continue when things returned to normal, and so an outbuilding on the premises was adapted to house a permanent shop.
The Shop at the Top was born in July 2020 as a farm shop, deli and cafe, delivering all of the great produce that had been enjoyed throughout lockdown - and so much more - but also a place where people can meet over a cup of cappuccino and a slice of cake, and share their stories of a strange and memorable year.