Business

England riots: Small businesses pick up the pieces

After the rioting and looting that devastated some cities in England, many firms were left literally picking up the pieces of what was left of their businesses.

Here, some of those small-business owners tell their stories - of the damage they suffered and how they have been attempting to get back on their feet and get business back to normal.

BBC News will be following their stories over the next few weeks to see how the recovery is going.

Ajay Bhatia owns the Machan Express shop and cafe in Birmingham

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Media captionAjay Bhatia says he feels sorry for the looters

It took us six hours to clear up the shop, and I opened the next day because I can't afford to lose one day's business.

My bank manager said he is trying to extend my overdraft limit by £5,000 for six months, but the insurance companies are not co-operating with people.

I will definitely be struggling to pay my bills without some help. I would like to see the council do more to help family-run businesses.

And I would like to see big brands make some goodwill gestures to help out the retailers who sell their products. I have spoken to some companies about this but so far nothing has been agreed.

I have tried to restock slowly but cash flow has really gone down because footfall has gone down after the riots.

In the longer run I had planned to start a cyber-cafe at the back of the shop, but that's now down the drain.

Michael Caine owns Raffles clothes shop in Blackheath, London

I first heard of what was going on at about 1am, and I was shocked to see the mess and the debris. Mannequins were smashed to pieces and glass was strewn everywhere - it was like a bomb had gone off.

I patrolled outside the front of the store from 1.30am to 5am with a member of my staff, who also came down. Had I not come to my business and protected it I would be facing a total loss.

Image caption Raffles is still boarded up and graffiti sprayed on the boarding and temporary signs

We're still not fully open. I'm a retail fashion store and our biggest selling point is having window displays. But every window is still boarded.

Last week was a complete write-off and this week hasn't been much better. It's a massive hit. Like any small business, we're all about our cash flow and my cash flow's gone from reasonably healthy to zero.

When I put my insurance policy in place I never envisaged having every window smashed. We're covered for up to £5,000. To get all the windows done will cost £12,000 and I can't afford that at the moment.

We've had amazing support from customers and locals, but in the bigger picture, despite all these promises from the government, it's not been straight forward getting advice and help.

So far, basically nothing's happened. A bit more clarity from the council would have been nice.

Polka Rastovic runs Crispins Wine Bar in Ealing with husband Alex

I was hiding in the back when it happened. They were smashing the windows and doors, and jumping on top of the bar, smashing all the wine.

Image caption More than a week after the looting, the shop door still needs to be repaired

We managed to escape to the restaurant next door and waited until it had calmed down before coming back in. It was like a war zone.

I didn't go home. I stayed here all Monday night and started clearing up all the glass.

We were closed for two days. We got a delivery on Thursday, which restocked most of our stock. But all the windows were boarded up until Saturday.

Everybody has been so helpful. We are well informed by the council - they are offering us free advice. The police are checking we are ok.

It's really nice [that people are being helpful] but it makes you really tired - dealing with the insurance, the police, the press, customers.

Obviously there's a loss. How much? I don't know. I fear fewer customers will come. People are a little bit scared. But we are here all day, every day.

Aggie Pelekanou runs Montys Deli Sandwich Bar in Birmingham

On Monday night security guards in the office phoned me and said the shop windows had been put through.

We're only open Monday to Friday so a lot of our stuff comes in on a Monday - so all the drinks and cans came in and there were boxes and boxes of raw chicken breasts.

People were just going in and looking for what they could take, and they'd leave the fridges open, at which point then everything that has to be refrigerated at 5 degrees - it all had to go.

We couldn't trade on Tuesday and they broke in again on Tuesday night anyway, even though there was nothing to take.

The damage looks like it's hitting £10,000 - the stock itself is coming up to about £2,000. The rest is damage to equipment and loss of trade.

The business has been affected - we've been completely boarded up. I've got the repairers in and the glass is going to be sorted out on Saturday.

I'm also installing shutters as a result of this to protect the business going forward. I fear it may all flare up again in a few months' time.

Matthew Hilton runs a bike shop, Micycle, in Islington

They picked on all our bikes over £700. In total they took about £10,000 worth of stuff, about half the total value of our stock.

Image caption Mr Hilton has put one of the recovered, but damaged, bikes on display in the shop window

We opened the next morning but we didn't have a lot to sell.

We've had three of the bikes back, but they're quite badly damaged.

All of our bikes are Italian and the trouble is Italy's asleep for August, so I can't even order new stock until the end of the month. Plus the 2012 models will be out at the end of September so I don't really want to be buying 2011 bikes just one month before that.

We only turn over about £200,000 a year and we're down about £3,000 over those two weeks. I'll be lucky to break even for the next month. It's not what you need, especially with the dodgy economy.

The thing I'm most worried about is the disruption - we've only been here 18 months, so we were just starting to get into profit on a regular basis and it's just taken the wind out of our sails.

John Henn runs TA Henn jewellers in Wolverhampton

We were warned in the morning by our local police that there were going to be problems, so we closed at 3pm. A number of stores were still open and suffered more damage than us.

Image caption If not for the thick glass and the shutter behind, the damage could have been much worse

We've got 11.5mm laminated glass and behind the glass was an opaque metal shutter, so it makes you wonder what they were thinking trying to get in.

They gave up after about 20 minutes, so they didn't get any stock, but they caused about £5,000 worth of glass damage.

We were open the next day but shrouded in timber. The shop's been standing since 1935. Never before has it been covered up in wood!

Business reduced very much to people who were just interested in repairs or low-value purchases.

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