Well known for his interpersonal skills and innate love of people, when lockdown happened north west sales agent Oldham-based Neil Greenwood (one half of Reil Agencies with Rachel Williams, which represents Cinnamon Aitch, Caroline Gardner, Giftwrap UK, The Handcrafted Card Co, Laura Darrington, Museums & Galleries and U-Studio) was never destined to become a hermit.
Joining forces with his bestie pal Lorraine Robinson (an independent travel consultant), they set up ‘The Virtual Tavern’ on Facebook, which has taken off big time. It now has 39,000 punters worldwide in over 76 countries and territories , including some of Neil’s retail customers as its ‘regulars’.
From quiz nights and live acts to DJ sessions and bingo, The Virtual Tavern 2020 Facebook group has grown from friends and friends of friends into a safe, supportive, fun and global community.
“In the beginning we both talked about whether it would be possible to create a positive place where people feel safe to speak, supported if they needed it and can have a really good laugh. We think as a collective we’ve managed it, thanks to the wonderful members and their passion for the Tavern,” said Neil.
Set up as a safe space, the Tavern’s rules include no swearing, football, religion, politics, hate speech, bullying or negative Covid-19 posts. To cope with how the Tavern has taken off, Neil and Lorraine have built a 17-strong team of administrators and moderators which includes Neil’s mum Carole.
And such has been the enthusiasm from members, there is now a website offering range of official Virtual Tavern merchandise. (https://www.thevirtualtavern2020.com/post/a-little-trip-down-memory-lane).
However, with retail lockdown easing, Neil is now happy to be juggling his responsibilities as a virtual landlord with that of being an agent.
“I have missed the human contact with my customers, but the interaction through the Tavern has kept me going. The appreciation of greeting cards has also come through strongly as we have included a handwritten greeting card with every merchandise order thanking them for their support and that has gone down incredibly well,” said Neil.
Top: Neil Greenwood’s virtual landlord days (seen here with landlady Lorraine Robinson) will be juggled with his ‘day job’ serving his retail customers.