Rasen’s market town heroes
Staying vibrant and attractive to shoppers and visitors is a major challenge for today’s county towns – but one is determined to build on its success.
Market Rasen has hit the headlines on many occasions, been visited by shopping guru Mary Portas and shared its experiences with other towns at major conferences.
Thankfully that early magic has not disappeared and the team at MR BIG – the town’s business improvement group – is continually encouraging traders not to rest on their laurels.
It’s great to revisit a destination and hear that both newcomers and expanding, longer-established businesses believe this is a place which is well worth investing in.
Chair of MR BIG, Sara Scott said: “Our little business group is coming up for its third anniversary in January. I think the town and the high street (in Market Rasen’s case, Queen Street) has come such a long way in the last three years. There has been a fairly amazing transformation.
“Market Rasen had huge problems. There were dilapidated premises, its buzz had gone and its markets were in decline. Traders were concerned that things might slide to the point where they could not be recovered. There was not much collaboration or joined-up thinking.”
MR BIG started its work during the depths of the recession and things were really tough for businesses.
However, the town went on to win £98,000 through the Portas Pilot project. A year later there was a further cash injection from the High Street Renewal Fund, then money from the High Street Innovation Fund, via West Lindsey District Council, as well as some Heritage Lottery and Arts Council England support. “We have written some very good bids for support,” said Sara.
MR BIG is not ‘time limited’ – unlike traditional Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) which have a five-year life and then have to re-ballot their levy payers for a mandate to continue their work. And that is just as well, because Sara said there is lots more to do.
“Keeping the high street alive and thriving is a continual challenge. I personally think that small, local high streets in rural areas, and particularly in market towns, have to continually reinvent themselves to make sure they stay relevant,” she said.
The MR BIG team is hugely proud of what it has achieved over the past three years, but is not about to rest on its laurels.
“We have a regular monthly MR BIG Market, which has won two national awards. It takes place on the first Saturday of the month when the Market Place is brought to life with thirty to thirty-five stalls,” said Sara.
“We kickstarted the initative to keep the town tidy and the high street is much more well-maintained now. Traders have displayed hanging baskets, and proudly flown the Lincolnshire flag. Flower baskets are subsidised, and watered, and the Community Payback Team visits and helps to keep the environment tidy.
“We initiated two community shop projects. The former Greens of Lincoln outlet was sold to Maria Pemberton and has now been rebranded. We also started the BIG Corner Shop, which we finally took off the high street. It is now a smaller project and looked after by the Rasen Hub.”
The Corner Shop project originally aimed to encourage artists and makers to move up from selling their goods from market stalls into traditional commercial premises.
“One of the big things that has happened around here, is that we have several long-term vacant premises. One by one, these have now been more or less taken,” said Sara.
The former Goldmine Bar in Queen Street is a prime example. This summer, the Brigg based business Grandad’s Shed decided it was time to expand and opened a quality furniture outlet in the premises, which is being shared with Curtain Couture.
Grandad’s Shed and The Loft Restaurant in Brigg are owned by Paul Keane, who had been searching for suitable premises in the town for some time.
Other recent arrivals in Market Rasen include the fashion additions Isn’t She Lovely and Glitz & Glamour, as well as a new gent’s barbershop.
Market Rasen is also a place where you will find many long-standing, family-run enterprises. Examples include the electrical goods retailer Peter Rhodes (which also offers fitted kitchen and bedroom solutions). It is headed by Joyce Rhodes and her son-in-law Roger Clark.
Another well-known business is the Land Rover dealership, Duckworth Landrover.
Market Rasen is, of course, also famed for its Racecourse, which is about to benefit from fresh investment. Here a different kind of race is underway, as staff cheer on contractors who are completing an £800,000 expansion of the Tattersalls and Family Enclosures before Christmas. Next year will see the further development of the County Enclosure.
With pre-Christmas events also being planned for Market Rasen, one thing is clear: this is certainly a destination well worth a visit as the festive season gathers pace.
In today’s world there aren’t many people who can say they have been going to work for the same business for nearly fifty-seven years – but Joyce Rhodes qualifies for that badge!
Joyce (80), a director of the well-known county retailer Peter Rhodes, is still playing as active a role in the day-to-day management of its affairs as she was when it started out.
The electrical appliance business, which is the largest of its kind in Lincolnshire, has its headquarters in Oxford Street, Market Rasen, from where it sells a huge range of home essentials, from washing machines to cookers, refrigerators and the latest televisions.
Peter Rhodes Kitchen Studio lies just across the road in Queen Street – and has just expanded to offer bedroom design solutions. Then there is the Peter Rhodes electrical store in Mercer Row, Louth. Joyce works in the Oxford Street premises alongside fellow director and son-in-law Roger Clark.
“We started off as an electrical contracting business in Market Rasen, then over the years phased that out and concentrated on retailing. We opened our Louth store thirty years ago and our kitchen studio at about the same time. Louth was a natural expansion move for us,” said Joyce.
“We employ twenty people across the three outlets and I still do the paperwork and help to manage the business. I have always had an intense interest in the business and I enjoy helping to drive it forward.
“You have to be self-motivated and stay positive whatever is happening in the economy, but what better purpose is there for me other than ploughing my energies into our own venture?” she said.
Joyce has a daughter, Abigail – herself no stranger to running a business – and two granddaughters.
“Abigail used to own Ashley’s Toy Shop in the Cornhill in Lincoln and Abigail’s Emporium in the Bailgate. We own Papermill Cottages – a group of five self-catering properties in Tealby – and Abigail has now taken over the management of these from me,” said Joyce.
Son-in-law Roger Clark said Peter Rhodes had benefited from investing in a website and being able to showcase the wide range of products and services it offers. This facility also allows customers to reserve goods.
Joyce agreed that it is vital to keeping moving with the times and that the website has helped the business to stay competitive and reach a wider customer base.
It’s obvious that Joyce is pretty inspirational on the business front but she also keeps herself busy when she’s away from her desk.
“I am churchwarden at St Peter & St Paul’s Church in Middle Rasen and on the church’s social committee. I also actively support charities such as St Andrew’s Children’s Hospice in Grimsby, am President of the Middle Rasen Horticultural Society and serve on several other committees,” she said.
That’s a pretty hectic social life, but Joyce is especially proud of one memorable date in her diary: the day she and Abigail took time out to experience one of the Queen’s Garden Parties!
NEW NAME GIVES IDENTITY
Maria Pemberton is at the helm of the increasingly popular West Wold Delicatessen, which she relaunched under its new name on Lincolnshire Day, 1st October.
The outlet was previously known as Greens of Lincoln and started out as a community shop, as part of the town’s Portas Pilot project, but passed into her ownership in June 2013.
“As Greens of Lincoln it was very successful but it lacked a certain identity. If you said that name to people, they would ask ‘What are you selling?’ It wasn’t evident,” said Maria.
“West Wold is the name with which I started my business, when I began selling jams, sweets and chutneys from a MR BIG market stall before moving into a high street shop, so it gave my store an immediate identity.
“Secondly, it marks the completion of my journey, from having a start-up business on the market to high street premises. Things are going really well for me. I’m getting good reviews and it’s very encouraging.”
Marie has a kitchen at the rear of her premises and the amount of products she is offering – under her strapline Local, Wholesome, Handmade Deals is increasing.
She recently launched a Saturday Scrumptious Meal Deal for Two, costing £10, but has now extended this to include Mondays to Saturdays.
Did you know that you can dip into Market Rasen’s past by taking a virtual tour from the comfort of your desktop?
Visit www.marketrasenheritage tour.co.uk to discover what happened when the justice was tried in his own courthouse (Kilnwell Road), find out more about St Thomas’ Church’s turbulent history (Market Place), a global pioneer in the treatment of the insane (Church Street Corner), how the arrival of steam in 1848 revolutionised the town (Chapel Street) and many more interesting facts.
EXCITING NEW VENTURE
Entrepreneur Sally Cordell is creating five new jobs in Market Rasen, with the launch of her third enterprise!
Sally, who started the fashion shop Spring fifteen years ago and complemented it by launching the adjacent Beauty Room four years ago, was due to throw open the doors on her brand new business The March Hare at the end of October.
In a move which echoes the regenerative work going on in the town at the moment, Sally has been busy breathing new life into the former Square Bar at the corner of the Market Place, reviving a property which had stood empty for four years.
It’s an exciting time for Sally – who is aiming to make the most of the building by creating a new three-pronged venture.
“Obviously, the improvements recently made to the town have made a difference to my existing businesses, and I felt encouraged to help regenerate Market Rasen further with the launch of another venture,” said Sally.
“The March Hare will trade as a daytime coffee bar from Mondays to Saturdays, then become a tapas bar – initially on Friday and Saturday evenings – from 7pm until late. We shall also be offering bed and breakfast accommodation, with a choice of five rooms,” she added.