A FAMILY business which hosts seasonal attractions has radically reinvented itself to help the community during the coronavirus crisis.

Tulleys Farm near Crawley is best known for its award-winning Halloween event Shocktober Fest.

Now the team behind the scream park has temporarily transformed the events business back into a farm shop, similar to the one it had previously been running at the site from the early 1990s until 2014 – but with one big difference.

Owner Stuart Beare said: “We had a pick-your-own fruit farm since the 1970s and opened a farm shop in the 1990s but sadly we had to close the shop in 2014, for various reasons.

The Argus: Stuart Beare, right, with his son Sam and his mother MarionStuart Beare, right, with his son Sam and his mother Marion

“Now we’re an events business predominantly with escape rooms, Shocktober Fest and our family Christmas event as well as Pick Your Own Pumpkin.

“But when things started ramping up with the coronavirus crisis and we realised we had to close the entertainment side of the business, we started to get lots of people turning up at the farm asking about the shop.

“My 23-year-old son Sam is involved with the business and he asked whether there was a way we could reopen the shop.

“As people aren’t shopping in the traditional way at the moment I knew that if we were going to do something it would have to be quite radical.

“That’s when he suggested a drive through farm shop to minimise contact – like an American-style diner.”


The Argus: Tulleys Farm staff take customers' orders on an iPad at a distanceTulleys Farm staff take customers' orders on an iPad at a distance

That was on the weekend which immediately followed Boris Johnson’s Friday announcement that pubs, restaurants and other businesses would have to close.

Stuart contacted his old suppliers and within three days the Tulleys team was ready to trial the farm shop drive through.

Stuart said: “We opened at noon on Wednesday last week and within a couple of hours we had sold everything.

“I don’t know how we’ve done it.

“It was a very busy Sunday afternoon preparing it all last week but we have a very creative team who worked hard to get it going. It’s really cool seeing it operate.

“People are so happy. It’s really great to provide support for the community, and to keep staff employed.”

Customers pull up in the car park and place their orders with a member of staff who takes it down on an iPad and sends it through to the packing room.

The Argus: Tulleys Farm staff packing ordersTulleys Farm staff packing orders

Visitors can then drive through and pay by card from their window, and staff will put the goods in their car boot.

Stuart said the new scheme has taken off well and the team are making changes as they go.

He said: “The last five days have been insane.

“We’ve got four traffic lanes at the moment but we are going to be opening up two more.

“Today we had sold out of meat by midday but we are gradually building up the supply chain, and we’ve got fruit and vegetables, eggs, milk and bread coming in every day.

“It’s very much fresh food.

“Our butcher is from Battle and we’ve already had great feedback from people who had lovely bacon sandwiches over the weekend.”

The Argus: Staff then place orders into customers' car bootsStaff then place orders into customers' car boots

Stuart said the drive through will soon be offering a range of pies and sausage rolls from Piglets Pantry in Worthing, and premium meats such as whole chickens and steak, as well as salmon and fishcakes by the end of this week.

Although he does not envision keeping the drive through going after social distancing measures are removed, Stuart hopes the crisis may have a lasting impact on the public’s shopping habits.

He said: “When we come out of this I really hope people will continue to support buying British products and shopping local.

“We have some signs which people can download from our website to put in their car windows, so it’s clear what they are out to do.

“People have more time on their hands at the moment so driving up here is a useful way to get out of the house.

“We’re hoping this year’s Shocktober Fest will go ahead, but will have to take advice as it comes.”

To find out more about Tulley’s Farm and the new drive through, visit www.tulleysfarm.com.

  • At The Argus, we are championing the work of traders during the coronavirus pandemic as part of our #BackingSussexBusiness campaign. We are always interested to hear how the community is coming together in this crisis. If you know of a local business battling to do all it can in these tough times and/or offering support to the local community, please get in touch at laurie.churchman@theargus.co.uk and rose.lock@theargus.co.uk.