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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the December 2015 issue

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Market town traders are urging shoppers to take a fresh look at the sheer variety of goods and services they offer, as the festive season gathers pace.

It is easy for travellers to drive through Market Rasen on their way to other destinations and the town has scores of businesses which are worth stopping for.

Many already boast loyal customers who travel miles to visit them and more people are being encouraged to take time to discover why.

Free parking and the fact that the town is easy to walk around are two of the more obvious reasons. Market Rasen also offers shoppers and browsers a good choice of places in which to relax and enjoy refreshments, from pubs to hotels, tea and coffee shops.

Six months ago, we reported how the Mary Portas-backed MR BIG initiative, which put Government funding to work, had helped to put Market Rasen on the map. Although that project has finished, no-one is thinking of resting on their laurels and there is still plenty of confidence to be found within this destination, which sits on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Earlier this year, the Town Council was boosted by the arrival of new members; long-standing businesses have celebrated special milestones; others are exploring new ways of using their premises, and still others have expanded.

As in every market town, there are comings and goings. Some entrepreneurs really find their niche, whilst others perhaps don’t succeed due to a lack of experience or because they have failed to grasp the value of taking sound advice. But existing retailers and service providers are now turning their thoughts to the busy festive season and looking forward to decorating their premises, and the town’s traditional Christmas celebrations.

In the months ahead, the Town Council is also hoping to make progress with plans for a £400,000 project to transform the town’s Festival Hall. There are also moves to set-up a Market Rasen Area Chamber – to make use of the legacy funds from the MR BIG project.

Market Rasen Mayor and Town Council chairman, John Matthews, believes the town has lots going for it.

“There are around seventy businesses in the town centre and I would say that three-quarters of them have been here for more than ten years. We sponsor Christmas trees for the shops which are able to display them, and this year we have ordered fifty, which will brighten up the town,” he said.

Long-standing traders include the optician N & EP Greenwood, which has just celebrated thirty years in business; Rasen Hardware; electrical goods supplier Peter Rhodes, and the popular Albion Tea Shop.

Another well-known business is the family-run motor dealership Duckworth Land Rover, and of course Market Rasen’s famous Racecourse has a great following – not only for the horse racing, but also for its growing reputation for hosting top-flight concerts and other events.

Coun Matthews, who runs the Beechwood Guest House in Market Rasen, said guests include everyone from business people to contractors working in the area, couples on holiday and people needing accommodation when attending family events.

They come from all over the country, Europe and even from as far away as New Zealand and include those who flock to Lincolnshire for the crowdpulling Lincoln Christmas Market.

“People who visit seem to be very positive about what they find in Market Rasen. Families who subsequently decide to relocate to this area, particularly from the south of England, also find it increasingly offers them good value for money,” said Coun Matthews.

“Those who have moved here recently say the town provides them with a good variety of shops and services, but some local people are more critical. They say there needs to be more on offer for young people and better transport services.”

The Town Council has seen an injection of fresh blood this year, with the arrival of Coun Jake Jackson and Coun Thomas Smith – the latter is also on West Lindsey District Council.

“Both have brought a new perspective and fresh ideas to the table and they are very enthusiastic. Thomas has also brought an element of partnership between the Town and District Councils,” said Coun Matthews.

“One of the things that we are keen to do is to undertake a major refurbishment of the town’s Festival Hall and to get funding for the redevelopment of that venue, so that it offers twenty-first century services to the community.

“We secured money to carry out a feasibility study and asked businesses, schools and individuals what they thought about the hall, how they would like to see it improved and what else Market Rasen needed to make it a better place in which to live and work.

“Feedback revealed that the Festival Hall is well-used, but the building is very dated in its appearance. People want to see it upgraded and to continue, but also want to see it being used by more groups.

“The cost of redevelopment would be £400,000, and we are in the process of looking at how this might be grant funded, by exploring National Lottery, European Lottery and other potential sources.”

Lincolnshire Chamber is forging ahead with plans to create a Chamber facility in the town. Following on from the success of the MR BIG Portas Pilot project, Lincolnshire Chamber business development and project manager Marie Pritchett is eager to start working with local traders and keep the momentum going.

“My first priority will be to support members of the business community to set up and develop a Market Rasen Area Chamber, which will represent businesses within the town and its hinterland on a local and countywide level,” said Marie.

“My role will be to facilitate working with all stakeholders to deliver initiatives that local businesses require. This will involve highlighting Market Rasen’s unique character and will aim to continue to attract both businesses and consumers to the area to ensure the town’s future economic prosperity.

“I will also seek to support the longer-term sustainability of initiatives through grants and other commercial income to ensure that Market Rasen is forward-looking for growth.”

SPECIAL EDITION CHOCOLATE
Rosanna has been at the helm of Special Edition Chocolate for over twenty years. With a background in teaching Home Economics and being a self-confessed chocoholic, when the opportunity arose to buy a small chocolate business she snapped it up. She now has a thriving shop and cafe area where you can enjoy thick hot chocolate, coffees and teas and sample more than seventy different varieties of her products, rated 5 star in TripAdvisor.

Rosanna visited Venezuela where she worked on a cocoa plantation in the rainforest where she harvested beans to make her own bars. She has won many awards including three European and one international award.

All visitors are given a warm welcome.

Special Edition Chocolate (The Chocolate Drop), Willingham Village Hall, Market Rasen, T: 01673 844073.

TRADERS’ TALES
Market Rasen is home to many more businesses than many people realise – and it is certainly worth parking up (for free!) and enjoying a spot of retail therapy.

This is a destination where shoppers will find a wealth of independents, as well as some national names, and where you are often likely to spot a new entrepreneurial venture.

Clare Bradford launched Party Box in Queen Street last February – after moving to the area from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire – and is looking forward to her first Christmas in the town.

When she opened, Clare offered everything from fancy dress to balloons, greetings cards, napkins and paper tableware, as well as hiring out essentials for people planning DIY weddings and celebrations.

“I have since added hat hire and printed T-shirts, which are popular with hen, stag and other parties. I was really busy over Halloween, with a rush for accessories and ‘fake blood make-up’. New customers keeping finding my shop and I am looking forward to a busy festive season.”

The owner of Market Rasen Pet Centre, Bridget Pitman-Brand, launched a second business in the town in mid-February, after learning that Maria Pemberton had decided to give up her deli two doors away.

Bridget embarked on her business after listening to what people locally were saying they wanted to see in the way of goods and services. Undies & Overs now sells childrenswear, underwear for the whole family, baby clothes and much more.

“I have dropped some lines over the past few months, but added to other ranges, which currently includes children’s items for Christmas. Although we are not tearing up trees, I am very pleased with the way my second shop is going and the fact that we are being visited by new potential customers every day.”

Another well-known name in the town is the successful ladies fashionwear outlet Magnolia, which is run by June Laminman.

“I have been trading in Market Rasen for eleven years now and my customers include shoppers who travel to my shop from Lincoln, Louth, Grimsby, Woodhall Spa and Boston, as well as those who live locally.”

June is confident that if more people took time to wander around Market Rasen they would be surprised at what the town offers.

“Every market town has its business challenges and it is very easy for people to pull rural centres down, but if people took time to stop and explore they would discover we offer much more than they realised,” she said.

GOLDMINE PLANS
As we went to press, investors in Market Rasen – Sara Scott and Darren Lince – had their fingers firmly crossed that they would get the green light from planners to forge ahead with a jobs-creating move.

The directors of Scott & Lince were awaiting approval from West Lindsey District Council to go ahead and begin works, to breathe new life into the former Goldmine pub in Queen Street.

The pair, who are former directors of MR BIG, have owned the premises since 2012. For approximately seven years prior, the building had stood empty and had become something of a blight on the High Street.

The ambition is to transform the heritage building into a suite of high-class offices with superb online connectivity.

“We believe this type of development would encourage existing local talent to remain within Market Rasen and give other budding entrepreneurs the kickstart they need to get established, grow and create more jobs,” said Sara Scott.

Martin Flynn, of Flynn Architecture in Bishop Norton, said the development would offer a mix of office accommodation, in a location which is short of high-quality, managed office space.

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