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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the August 2013 issue

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New businesses have taken root and a spirit of enterprise is thriving in a Lincolnshire market town, which continues to make headlines since winning Portas Pilot funding.

Market Rasen is forging ahead with its revival, after welcoming another raft of new shopkeepers and service businesses in recent days. It is also exploring ways of attracting even more people to visit the town, after scooping a further windfall this spring.

The town won a boost of £98,599 under the Portas Pilot Scheme and it is continuing to draw down those funds as required. There is still about £45,000 left in that pot of money.

Then, in May, Market Rasen’s business initiative group MR BIG announced the town was one of just seven locations lucky enough to win a share of £1million, in the form of a High Street Renewal Award of £101,057.

Destinations had to bid for the money which was given by the Government to towns and cities which had shown they were already taking an innovative approach to revitalising their high streets.

MR BIG director, Richard Hallsworth said: “We will be investing that money in making further improvements to the town.”

That could include tidying-up projects, the creation of a community café or initiatives to encourage businesses to move into empty units.

Success comes as Market Rasen’s entrepreneurial star is once more on the rise, with new businesses springing up in the town and others in the surrounding area hoping to benefit from the extra interest being taken in this location.

One of the town’s newest arrivals is Sweet Beginnings Photography in Queen Street. Its opening marks an expansion move for owners, Paul and Sharon Burzynski. They already have a studio in Scampton, but wanted a shopfront for their work and had noticed the changes taking place in Market Rasen.

Paul and Sharon’s new shop is specialising in offering children’s and baby photography and their new premises have provided the ideal base in which to meet customers and showcase their approach to photography.

Marie Spence and her business partner, James Martin threw open the doors of their new shop, Isn’t She Lovely, in Union Street on 22nd June. The ladies’ fashion store has injected a touch of continental chic into the town and Marie is delighted with the warm welcome which she received.

“I also have another branch of Isn’t She Lovely in Brigg, where I’ve been trading for the past eighteen months and it has proved to be very popular,” said Marie.

“I had been visiting Market Rasen for a number of years and I always thought it was the ideal place for a second shop. So now we have a similar set-up here to our shop in Brigg.

“We are selling ladies’ fashion to suit people across the board and we aim to offer styles which are really comfortable to wear. A lot of our designs are from Italy and France,” added Marie.

Rasen Crafts, another new business which is also based in Union Street, is the brainchild of Jane Litchfield – and she was inspired to start it as a direct result of her own passion for knitting and other crafts.

“I have been in the Market Rasen area for about eleven years. I enjoy crafts generally and I had a stash of materials which were taking over my spare room,” said Jane.

“My husband Neal said, ‘Why don’t you get a shop and sell some of this type of stuff?’ and I thought, why not?” And Neal and his business partner actually own the premises which Jane has moved into!

Rasen Craft is now well stocked with knitting wools, crochet cotton, embroidery threads, haberdashery and sewing kits, providing plenty of temptations for people who love to keep their hands busy!

In time, Jane may also stock fabrics and there is good news for people who have always wanted to knit or crochet, but who don’t know where to start.

“As well as stocking crafting essentials, I also plan to host beginners’ and intermediary knitting classes and crochet classes too,” added Jane.

MR BIG is pleased to report the continued success of Greens of Lincolnshire, an outlet which sells fresh local produce and much more. The business group invested money in launching the shop in December 2012 and it was visited by Mary Portas who said it was “chic and appetising”.

However, it was never MR BIG’s intention to keep running it indefinitely and in May it was sold to a former market trader, Marie Pemberton, who has taken it on on a commercial basis. Marie said: “I was a former paramedic and worked for the ambulance service for eighteen years. At about this time last year, I reached a bit of a crossroads.

“Having always had an interest in food, I had this dream of opening a deli in Market Rasen. I knew all about MR BIG and the Portas Pilot project so I contacted BIG and they said something like a deli would be fantastic, but why didn’t I have a go at a market stall first?”

Marie soon found herself making soda bread for the Greens of Lincolnshire outlet and people started asking for quiches and other items too, so she was always in and out the premises.

“When they put the business out to tender for someone to take it on, I put in a bid and was successful, so it allowed me to transfer my businesses into high street premises in an affordable way. I have had lots of support from MR BIG,” added Marie.

Market Rasen’s growing success is seen as being good news for the local area, and welcomed by businesses based in nearby villages.

Lisa Clarke, from Osgodby, runs Lisa Clarke Ceramics and Glassware Repair. After doing a BA in conservation and restoration at the University of Lincoln, Lisa initially planned to work in a museum, but the lack of job opportunities led her to create her own enterprise.

Today she is using her skills to repair all sorts of treasured items – to museum standard. She explained that every piece of work she carries out is also ‘reversible’ in line with the museum sector’s ethos.

“I set up my business and started advertising locally, but it has grown mainly through word of mouth. I do work for businesses and individuals who ask me to repair items of sentimental value. I have even had people recommended to me by Chatsworth House,” said Lisa.

Lisa believes the turnaround being seen in Market Rasen is positive for the whole area.

CHECK OUT THE BIG CORNER SHOP
One of MR BIG’s achievements has been the launch of The BIG Corner Shop, which is a real Aladdin’s cave of interesting finds and great gifts.

Born out of the transformation of the old Halifax Building Society, by the Lindum Group, the premises provide a mid-way point for market traders who want to have a presence on the High Street.

Two of the three rooms are dedicated paid retail space, while the third provides volunteer-run space for a fee and a commission. This really is the place to find something unique, and made with pride too.

Upstairs in the building, you will find MR BIG town manager, Nicola Marshall, who works three days a week co-ordinating MR BIG activities alongside colleague, Lincoln College apprentice Sadie Richardson.

Both love the work they do and earlier in July they were thrilled to collect a runners-up award in the Town Team category of the Association of Town & City Management’s awards – presented at a glittering dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Lincoln.

Nicola said: “Taking up this role was a new challenge for me. Living locally, I knew a lot of market towns and Market Rasen’s position. I knew there was a chance to do something good through the Mary Portas project. There is a lot of energy, I felt I could influence things and that the job would be satisfying.”

Sadie is doing an advanced apprenticeship through Lincoln College and working towards her NVQ in business and administration. She organises the MR BIG database and is also kept busy posting regular updates on social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook.

“I have lived in Market Rasen and the local area all my life. This job is brilliant. Before I started it, I went to university, then changed my mind. I wanted to get work experience and this job is ideal. The Mary Portas project in Market Rasen is a big thing.”

You can read social media updates about what is happening in the town by logging on to Twitter @MarketRasen_BIG and on Facebook – Visit Market Rasen.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE ‘MARKET’
One of MR BIG’s pledges when it won Portas Pilot funding was to ‘put the Market back into Market Rasen’ – and it is a promise this Community Interest Group is determined to keep.

The town’s regular market days take place on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and all have been seeing a lift in trading.

But on the first Saturday of every month MR BIG pulls out the stops and boosts the traditional weekend market with themed events, which have attracted as many as sixty stallholders, creating a real vibrancy in the heart of the town and pulling in shoppers and visitors from miles around.

On Saturday, 3rd August BIG’s Rotary Club friends are hosting their Summer Market and Open Gardens event. Future MR BIG Market dates to note are 7th September, 5th October, 2nd November and 7th December.

Earlier this year MR BIG celebrated news that it had won the NABMA Small Speciality Market of the Year award.

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