Hope is palpable in the village of Ballinamallard as the coronavirus lockdown continues to ease. Over the last few months, amidst the darkness of the pandemic, a number of the village’s businesses have seen some light, experiencing an upsurge in trade as residents choose to shop local.

“It’s been busy, and it’s great to see,” said Robert Graham, an employee of Keith Moore Butcher when asked how business has been during lockdown.

“As bad as it was, it made people go home and support their local businesses,” he commented.

Across the road in Riverside Quality Meats, butcher Andrew Burleigh echoed this, adding that he hopes the support for local businesses will continue in the future: “I think it will have brought the community together more and people will realise that their local village is important.”

Niamh McGovern started working for Beatty’s Spar last Christmas. Although the festive season was busy, Niamh believes that the last few months have been even more so for the local supermarket: “It’s literally been so much more busy than at Christmas, I have found. But we’re not complaining, it’s good for business.”

The Village Pharmacy also experienced an influx in business, particularly at the beginning of lockdown as people were worried that they wouldn’t be able to get their medication, explained pharmacist Thomas Knox. “The first two weeks people were wanting inhalers that maybe they hadn’t had in a couple of years, and were thinking, ‘I better get a new one’, so the demand was quite high,” he said.

Commenting that business had been “reasonably good” at Beatty’s Hardware and Farm Supplies, employee Paul Leonard said: “The nature of our business left it very easy for us because with lockdown people were isolated or sitting at home with things to do. We were in the fortunate position in the hardware end of it that we had paint and different products that people were using in the house to decorate but also we had the farm supplies so that’s a 365 business.”

In the centre of the village, family business Marco’s Take Away is now back up and running after months of closure.

“We just reopened there on June 4. I work up in A&E so I couldn’t really be here and mum is just after having surgery last year, and she is waiting for a repair in one of her arteries so she got a letter just before lockdown started,” explained Gillian Conlon, speaking of her mother Margot Conlon, the proprietor of Marco’s Take Away. “We just couldn’t afford to let her be in contact with the public.”

With new safety measures in place and an online ordering set up, Gillian noted that they’ve “had to adapt” for the ‘new normal’.

Nicola Beacom, owner of Mallard Home Bakes says she’ll be glad “just to get back to normal”. Having closed the bakery for six weeks during the pandemic, Nicola and her staff are now back working with social distancing measures in place. “Since we got back it’s been a lot slower but a lot better than what it was,” she commented.

However, during her time in lockdown Nicola has been developing products for her business as she looks to the future: “I’ve been baking at home, bringing out new lines and new ideas but I haven’t brought out anything in the bakery yet because it’s just not busy enough yet.”

“We can only take it each day as it comes,” she added.

Ballinamallard resident Raymond Armstrong told The Impartial Reporter that he found lockdown “very difficult” at the start.

“I live beside my two elderly parents and I had to basically look after them because obviously they couldn’t be out and about but we are very lucky here in Ballinamallard that we had the local shops here who always kept the social distancing and the people in Ballinamallard respected that. At no time was I afraid to go to the shops,” he shared.

An avid supporter of Ballinamallard United, Raymond has missed his weekly outing to Ferney Park to cheer on the boys in blue: “I have missed the football, there’s nowhere to go on a Saturday evening and we were looking forward to a promotion but unfortunately the FA have decided against that so there’s that disappointment.”

As lockdown continues to ease, Raymond doesn’t expect that things will ever go completely back to normal but is remaining hopeful for the future.

“If I can get back to football and enjoying that, and get our parents out of the house and give them more life again, that would be the main thing,” he told this newspaper.