Eight empty shops – and eight reasons to be cheerful
Here are the particulars for eight commercial properties currently available in Wellington. Each is a great opportunity for someone. But why? Because, in spite of all the continuing negativity about the future of small towns, there are lots of things which in Wellington at least point towards sunnier times ahead, with existing businesses signifying their confidence with new leases and expansion.
After a few days spent around the town during the last week, I reckon I can come up with at least eight reasons to be cheerful – as many as there empty properties listed here. So if you’re looking to start a small business, see if one of these would fit the bill – then read on to see what’s on the up in Wellington.
MY EIGHT REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL…
1. Building a new artisan offer: about ten of us met in the bar of the Cock Hotel last week to shape plans for bolstering Wellington’s food and crafts offer through improved monthly markets. Amongst our number were small businesses – traders and makers – plus keen residents who want to work with those traders to up Wellington’s game. Watch this space.
2. The Clifton: The next morning, I had a quick meet-up with Fiona and Bill from The Clifton Project, whose plans continue to develop a pace. Bill’s architectural drawings of potential ‘Clifton futures’ are the real deal – completely professional and a sign that these people aren’t messing about. Behind the scenes, a lot of work is going into preparing a share issue to hopefully go live in the autumn – that’s when we can start putting our money where our collective mouths are and make a bid to buy the site. Another space to watch – this one big and art-deco shaped.
3. A new, young business on the horizon: Due to my bad time-keeping, I then had to hot-foot it round the corner for another coffee catch-up with a couple of 18 year-olds who are trying to get a new business off the ground. Meg and Ross are recent college leavers with a background in photography and design, they plan to open a brand new business – The Light Box – featuring a photographic studio and gallery / sales space. They’re now hooked up with some helpful people so look out for them in the next few months. They’re really excited about getting started here in Wellington – they’ve got a good sense of the town, of what will work here and what they can offer.
4. An old business on the move – to bigger premises: The next day, back at The Cock Hotel, I met a guy at the bar called Matt Baker. Matt is the fourth generation of his family to run Baker and Sons, a school wear business which has been a fixture at Wellington Market for a century. This month they moved out into a huge shop on New Street and they’re already doing well.
5. Another old business on the up: Dropping in to see Veronica at Upstairs Downstairs on Market Street, I found out she too was on the move. After many years in her small (but beautifully formed) shop, Veronica is taking her business to a much larger unit on Bell Street (formerly home to Salop Music). Where once she focused on high-end greetings cards, she has now extended into a full-blown jewellery, crafts and accessories boutique – and as a result, she needs the room offered by this place…
6. A hidden gem that’s thriving: later that day, I met Roy and Karms for the first time. They run Wrekin Organic – a fantastic store that sells natural and organic foods that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the area. The trouble is, you’d be hard pressed to find the business itself, which is tucked away behind Bell Street in an unprepossessing storage unit which they have turned into a shop. And yet the appearance and position doesn’t seem to be deterring customers, who travel from all over Shropshire and further afield to buy the weird and wonderful things on sale. I’d love these guys to transfer into a more prominent high street shop, but they seem happy – and thriving – where they are. Pay them a visit.
7. Wellington’s best-dressed shop is left vacant – and gets snapped up within the week: I was sad to see Wellington’s only bookshop close its doors a week ago when shopkeeper Charles retired; it’s a great looking little shop and it didn’t deserve to be sitting empty. Fortunately it won’t be empty for long, as a tiny and badly printed ad in the local paper was all it took to attract a new occupant. A good looking site with a good rent counts for a lot, clearly.
8. Sticking around – The Camera Shop signs a new five year lease: finally, I went to see Alan at The Camera Shop. As a teenager becoming interested in photography, there was barely a week that I wasn’t there dropping off films to be developed or picking up the results. I sometimes tried having things printed at other places, but the quality was never as good. Alan has extended his business into different areas since – including fireworks and high-vis jackets of all things – but for me it’s that quality and expertise around photographic printing that Alan should be shouting about. If you’ve got digital prints languishing on your laptop, send them to Alan for some fantastic-looking prints. I’m really pleased he’s signed up for another five years in town.
So, whilst its sometimes hard to be positive about the future towns like Wellington, these little successes are worth emphasising. Because if firms who know Wellington are confident about investing in expansion – and if young people with a business idea think its a place worth setting up as well – then that’s a message to share. And if you’re a potential new start-up, your toes currently hovering over the Wellington waters, come and take a dip – it might be warmer than you’re expecting.