Coming back stronger

How a small family-run business is recovering from the pandemic

Celal Hassan (right) outside Nana Susie’s with drum and bass legend Goldie (left)

By Luchia Robinson

After encountering many setbacks exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19, the Hassan family are finally re-launching their business in Broad Lane.

Coming back after being closed for seven months, with a new look, and new name, the family business is no longer the traditional, sit-down café, Nana Susie’s, but a takeaway operation called the The Deli Co.

“These are worrying times and I just didn’t know how we were going to survive through all of this if we didn’t diversify and change to become a takeaway deli,” said owner, Celal Hassan.

Prior to the lockdown, business had been going very well, with construction workers from the building sites in Tottenham Hale, passing through for their breakfast and lunch.

Having run the café for 14 years, the decision to change the well-established business model wasn’t an easy one, but it was necessary.

“When [we were] told to close down, we closed down, we distanced, we didn’t see family. It was a hard time for everyone.”

“We’ve done everything by the book. It was a big pressure on a small family with no income coming in.”

The family took out a £20,000 Bounce Back Loan to cover the rent and bills, and to get the renovations started. This meant the business was out of action when cafés, restaurants and bars began re-opening, as the initial lockdown measures were eased.

According to the Haringey Business Impact Survey (which assessed the immediate effect of the pandemic upon local businesses), 79% of respondents expected to need financial assistance to remain viable.

A further 8% had serious concerns about their survival regardless of receiving any financial support.

In Mr Hassan’s case, he explains: “We had thought that we were going to come back like normal, that everything was going to blow over.

“When you’re trying to adapt as a takeaway from being a certain business for so long, you need new equipment − the money just went so quickly. Now, we’ve come so far and we’re just hoping that the community will get behind us.”

Having worked alongside sustainable food organisation, Edible London to run a regular soup kitchen at his premises, and by providing free food each week to community members in need of it, Mr Hassan is looking forward to doing even more.

He is excited about getting back to giving people some “good nutritional food” and is spending most days finalising menus, writing new recipes, talking to suppliers and seeking locally sourced produce from businesses within the community.

Mr Hassan said: “Mentally and physically it’s been a struggle to get to where I’ve got to; it’s been hard, but I can see that it’s going to be a success and that the community is going to be interacting and buying their coffee beans and fresh vegetables.”

“It will make me feel good as well, because it’s not just about pizza, or pasta or my homemade Mediterranean meals, it’s all about making sure that everyone in the community is happy as well.

“Everyone thought we had left and that Nana Susie’s had gone − no, we haven’t gone, we’re just evolving and changing; we’re still here to do service.”

Mr Hassan has a long-term goal of inspiring young children to learn new skills by teaching them how to cook. He also hopes to provide culinary qualifications in the near future.

Achieving these goals, he believes, starts by having the support of the community.

“I see [this period] as a test, I’ve learnt and I’ve grown. This has taught me so much, in a sense of how the people who love me, love me for who I am. They are people that love me for what I haven’t got − because I haven’t had much for the last seven months.

“I really do appreciate the people who’ve put themselves out selflessly, it does mean a lot.”

“Hopefully the The Deli Co is going to be a silver lining, something that is going to benefit the community and my family.”

“It’s going to be a positive and loving place.

“We’re here to serve our community and we’re going to fight this through. We’re all in it together.”