PICTURE CAPTION: From left to right - Julie Pryke (Burgis & Bullock), Vivienne Mills and Sean Farnell (Burgis & Bullock)

A £40,000 lockdown investment in a new yurt has helped the region’s biggest second hand book shop to survive the summer and set it up for a fruitful autumn by doubling the capacity of its popular coffee shop.

Astley Book Farm made the investment in the 30-foot wide yurt to expand seating space and allow for social distancing measures to be implemented for customers at its café.

Vivienne Mills, owner of Astley Book Farm, said it was important the shop and café invested during the lockdown period and the investment has now set the business up for a successful autumn and winter.

The yurt, which has been assembled in the courtyard of the coffee shop, has proved a hit with customers and Vivienne has received enquiries to hire it out for special events and occasions.

Vivienne took on sole ownership of the business in 2019 and the introduction of the yurt part of her wider plans to improve and expand the facilities at Astley Book Farm, which boasts 80,000 books on-site and a further 100,000 in storage away from the site.

She has been working with accountancy firm Burgis & Bullock, which has offices in Leamington, Nuneaton, Rugby and Stratford-upon-Avon, to access essential support during the pandemic and to support her expansion plans for the business.

Vivienne said: “We sat down in lockdown and knew we needed to do something a little bit different to be able to ensure we had a strong summer for the business.

“The yurt has allowed us distance our seating and to mitigate the impact of the unpredictable British summer weather by doubling our covered seating capacity.

“While the pandemic has had a negative impact on our bottom line, it did give us time to stop, catch our breath and assess where we wanted to go with the business.

“The support from the government really helped us through the summer, particularly with the business rates and VAT cuts, and I have worked closely with Burgis & Bullock to access key support measures through this time.

“We have spent the time decorating, buying new stock and extending our car park, putting the business in a position to bounce back better.

“The yurt has a log burner inside and we will be keeping it open throughout the winter, it should particularly give us a boost around Christmas when we are busy with festive shoppers.”

Sean Farnell, a partner at Burgis & Bullock, said Astley Book Farm is a fantastic example of a business planning ahead in order to bounce back strongly from the pandemic.

He said: “Businesses that have spent the last 18 months planning for their future will be those that come out of this period the strongest.

“We always stress the importance of planning to our clients and Vivienne is a prime example of this.

“Investing the yurt was an astute move and it has not only helped her business to reopen strongly but will also have longer-term benefits as the world returns to normal.

“Vivienne has exciting plans for the future of her business and we look forward to working with her to fulfil those ambitions.”