Welcome to the Sister Shout. A series of articles about our members and things that happen around Cheshire. In this issue of Sister Shout, we'll be chatting with Big Sister Hannah who runs The Green Rooms in Chester. A bundle of energy and honesty and realness, Hannah is a popular member of SisterHub who is always on hand with some excellent advice. The Green Rooms is an oasis of calm and serenity where we've spent many afternoons as a group of Sisters.
Tell us about where you were just before lockdown started. As a fairly new business, you were on a really cool trajectory and making waves in Chester.
The Green Rooms had exceeded all expectations and was busier than I had ever imagined it would be in it’s first six months so to cease trading for an unknown amount of time was quite a scary prospect.
When I first announced the concept to friends and locals in 2019 I was met with more than a few blank faces - The Green Rooms is an experience, a feeling, a place to create and be at peace. You can’t write it on a business card and I think that’s why it attracted so many people once it opened. It’s like no other place and to have such a long break from being there was heartbreaking.
How did you cope with lockdown? The personal toll has been so very hard on many of us, especially when it comes to mental health.
I’ve always enjoyed my own company so things didn’t change too much in terms of my personal life. I welcomed the time to reconnect with myself and my home. I’d love to tell you that I’m one of the people that read Marie Kondo’s book from cover to cover and completely transformed my home but I’m afraid the sides are still stacked with plant pots and cuttings and the table tops are still piled with art materials and my daughter’s home schooling books and the only real lock down joy was sparked by the amount of lie ins I was able to catch up on.
Has the Coronavirus crisis changed your relationship with your customers? For the better or worse?
My relationship with my customers is without a doubt my favourite thing about my work. I have met the most incredible people since opening the shop and received an overwhelming amount of messages when the shop closed it’s doors in March from workshop attendees, my weekly students, the coffee shop regulars and the plant fans to show their support and ask if there was anything they could do to help.
Not having a shop front for a while meant that I could talk online with my customers and the people who hadn’t been able to make it before during opening hours reached out to ask about plant care and chat about transforming their own homes in to jungles.
The Green Rooms wouldn’t be the place it is without the magic my customers bring in with them when they come through the door.
How are you handling the restrictions being lifted? Tell us about any changes you've made to your business.
Like most independent business owners, I was keen to get back to work after such a long break. I do have mixed feelings about the easing of restrictions because I feel that we’re all still very much under informed however I know that it’s vital that we support our city in any way we can. In the last few years there has been a surge of indies taking back our streets and it’s been exciting and refreshing to witness. Without us, Chester is faceless and that would be a great shame. I’ll still be cautious even when the lockdown has been lifted completely so I won’t be jumping on any planes any time soon. The confluence of fact and opinion online means I’m still none the wiser about what’s real and what isn’t and I’d rather be safe than sorry.
I have one particular set of students that I’ve been teaching for three years and felt that we needed to continue to connect each week so the classes moved online and it’s worked really well - I’m very much looking forward to seeing them all as a group in the flesh though! Most of the workshops have had to be postponed - The Green Rooms is about community and togetherness and this simply can’t be achieved on Zoom!
Where would you like to see things this time next year?
Lock down has forced many of us to work in different ways and now that the shop is only officially open on Fridays and Saturdays it’s meant that I can focus more on the plant styling part of my business during the week.
Ideally I’d like to add some more plant people and baristas to my team in 2021 so that it frees me up to work on more projects. There’s still so much uncertainty around what the future holds for us all that I am just so grateful to be back behind the counter and seeing the people I love to see for now.
What do you hope to gain from your SisterHub network over the next 12 months?
Being part of a supportive network of women has been a tremendous help not only for my business but for me personally. The online meetings that have taken place over lockdown have been more accessible for most of us that work in the evening so I would love to see them carrying on when things return to normal.
If you'd like to join SisterHub - click here
To learn more about the photographer of these amazing pictures - click here
Check out the gorgeous greenery on offer and the wide range of workshops happening.