Cardiff Businesses and Covid

by Hashim Al-Hashmi

The coronavirus pandemic has left many business struggling for survival with small independent businesses being particularly hard hit. Here we meet some of Cardiff ‘s unique businesses and talk to them about how they are surviving the crisis.


Rhona Duncan, Owner of Blasus Succulent Emporium

Q: Tell me about your business?

A: Blasus succulent emporium was born from my love of plants. It’s been a passion for as long as I could remember, so it made sense that my passion and knowledge should be what I spend my days doing. Based in an adapted container unit (well, now 2 and a polytunnel) in the Bone Yard, Canton, which is also home to other small independent businesses, my goal to have the largest selection of succulents locally was realised. Blasus stocks a huge range of house plants, outdoor plants and herbs. We also encourage sharing knowledge, experience and advice so the Blasus experience isn’t just purchasing a plant unlike so many other plant retailers. We have grown to take on commission pieces such as moss walls and supply appropriate plants to a large variety of venues. As a Welsh speaker I also encourage discussions in both English and Welsh, in fact I’ll talk about plants in any way you wish! Blasus is not just an alternative to the garden centre, we aim to stock the weird and the wonderful alongside the traditional with a wide range of accessories, gifts and practical additions for any budding horticulturist. 

Q: What were the challenges you faced during the pandemic?

A: I’m sure we were all met with many different challenges during the last 18 months but trying to keep a business running, care for 2 small children, provide home schooling and maintain a sense of normality was not an easy task. As soon as we could adopt a click and collect system it was implemented which brought the challenge of maintaining and updating a website. As Blasus was always based on something more personal and often our customers would just pop in for a chat and advice this was a very different direction for us. Deliveries were also something new to us but with planning and help it materialised into something quite special as so many people were happy to have an alternative focus and a new green friend on their doorstep to distract them from a mundane day of working from home. We were blessed to have the outside space that the Bone Yard provides so as soon as people could visit us, they did. The benefit of being outdoors was huge, even on the more miserable days we counted our blessings and were thankful for the social contact we took for granted for so long. Challenges also bring opportunity so positive changes were embraced as we moved forward. Obviously, the logistics of deliveries were tricky, any shop needs stock but thankfully we have a good relationship with suppliers and were able to work through any issues.

Q: What helped you stay motivated under these circumstances?

A: The support Blasus received from regular customers and the Bone Yard community was huge and inspiring. We really do have the best customers! As previously mentioned, the reaction to collections and deliveries really did spur us on when people told us how much it meant to be able to buy a gift for a friend’s birthday or to cheer up a colleague. We appreciated these were trying times for everyone and the fact that people chose to support us meant we weren’t going to let them down. With so many small businesses struggling we were all too aware of how difficult things were but it wasn’t time to dwell on the negative, but to adapt and try new things. It was trial and error initially but with but with support and a determined attitude we hope the worst is over. Blasus will always be grateful for the support received during these times. 

Q: Did you receive and forms of government aid during the pandemic?

A: We didn’t actually qualify but it wouldn’t have been something we would have pursued anyway. Time spent applying for grants or loans could be better spent organising a birthday present or sending advice to a regular customer that needed it. It was a more constructive use the time we had to look at alternatives for the business rather than a short-term fix of having a loan we’d need to repay eventually if we did qualify. As it wasn’t something that could be relied upon long term it made more sense to “covid proof” Blasus rather than look for ways to gain funding. We were fortunate to be in this position and to be able to resume business before a lot of other industries. 

The support Blasus received from regular customers and the Bone Yard community was huge and inspiring


Khalid Al-Muharrami, owner of Al Wali Restaurant

Q: Tell me about your business?

A: Al Wali Restaurant is a restaurant that focuses on Omani cuisine and other Arabic foods. We offer both takeaway and dine in options where there is the option to book a family room upstairs to have a more authentic feel and also offers privacy for families and larger groups. 

Q: What were the challenges you faced during the pandemic?

A: During the pandemic we had to close the restaurant for dining in customers and were only open for takeaway. This means that a large majority of our income was lost and we were making less than 80% in sales compared to how it was before the pandemic. Although we did have delivery as an option during the pandemic, because we aren’t a fast food chain we never relied on delivery to be our main source of income so we had to adapt during this time. 

As well as this, we also didn’t have enough staff as not many people were looking to work during the lockdown as they were worried for their health and so that made things very stressful. 

Q: What helped you stay motivated under these circumstances?

A: Our main motivation during the pandemic was our loyal customers. we provide a service that is unique and people enjoy our cuisine so although we were not making as much profit we still stayed open in order to provide that service for those customers. 

Q: Did you receive and forms of government aid during the pandemic?

A: from the government we received a grant and business loan which was very beneficial for us to keep the business running.

Our main motivation during the pandemic was our loyal customers


Jodie Davies, Owner of Crane Jewellery

Q: Tell me about your business?

A: I make jewellery using Eco Silver, Recycled Brass and Ethical semi precious stones. My work is inspired by geometry, symbolism and Art Deco Style. I have my studio in a re-purposed Shipping container at the Bone Yard in Cardiff. 

Q: What were the challenges you faced during the pandemic?

AFor the last few years making jewellery had been a side hustle for me, I did sell some but it was more of a hobby. My main job was working as a creative events organiser and managing weddings. When the pandemic hit all of my events work disappeared overnight and whilst it was pretty scary this gave me time and space to focus on jewellery making. 

I set up a website and started selling online and the business really took off. Stepping away from the events management business made me realise just how stressful I was finding it and as the jewellery side became more established I decided to devote all of my time to Crane Jewellery. I have now entirely given up my events work. The pandemic made everything feel unstable but also gave me the freedom to work out what it was I really wanted to spend my time doing.

Q: What helped you stay motivated under these circumstances?

A: For me developing the jewellery business made me feel really motivated and it was something to fill my time with whilst I was at home, whilst juggling home schooling at the same time!

Q: Did you receive and forms of government aid during the pandemic?

A: Like many others I wasn’t eligible for the self employment support grants throughout the pandemic but I did receive a one off creative grant from Cardiff Council which was hugely appreciated.


Allan Parkines, Owner of Kellys Records

Q: Tell me about your business?

A: My name is Allen Parkines I own Kelly’s records in Cardiff we are the largest independent second hand record shop in the country probably. we have been here since 1969

My aunty and uncle established the business. That’s Eddie and Phyllis Kelly that is why we are called Kellys. They retired and I bought it off them in 1991.

We have expanded the business dramatically we have got our own website now and we are on all social media. as I said I bought in 1991 so I have been here for 30 years and we go from strength to strength.

Q: What were the challenges you faced during the pandemic?

A: We were hit with the pandemic because we are a very small number of staff and initially, I had to let one of my staff go. And one of them was on furlough so myself, my wife tried to keep it going through the pandemic.

The first lockdown was okay because the weather was lovely and it was not too bad but the second lockdown which started in just December. That really hit us hard we probably lost about 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of the business, but since we have opened up in April and we have been fine. 

We managed to claw some of that back and we have been doing fine because the pandemic was a really challenging time for us.

Q: Did you receive any forms of government aid during the pandemic?

A: Yes, we did and probably without the aid we wouldn’t have survived. we had four lots of different aids. Well, we had one lot of one grand that I think we have had four times throughout the pandemic which literally kept us going.

Q: What helped you stay motivated under these circumstances?

A: Well, we had to keep the business going on because I have to pay my staff. I topped up my staff so they were on 100 percent we had to pay the rent the electricity and everything else considered with the business. On the second one, we just put a massive order in for new records not knowing the pandemic was coming so we had to pay that bill as well. It was just a difficult time just trying to juggle in all our balls. 

“…without the [government] aid probably we wouldn’t have survived

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