Harrogate district's independent businesses given £10,000 boost to take on retail giants

Owner of Baltzersen's cafe, director of Norse restaurant, and indies campaigner, Paul Rawlinson.
Owner of Baltzersen's cafe, director of Norse restaurant, and indies campaigner, Paul Rawlinson.

Independent businesses have been given a cash boost by Harrogate Council to help them compete and encourage people to buy local.

The owner of Baltzersen’s cafe and director of Norse restaurant, Paul Rawlinson, said the £10,000 support from the council reflects a growing movement in the town and the wider district to help indies thrive.

Mr Rawlinson is already spearheading a project to create an Indie Harrogate Guide with an accompanying website to raise the profile of businesses, and the council’s backing will go towards funding the venture.

Welcoming the support, Mr Rawlinson said: “I am pleased that the council recognises the value independent businesses bring to the mix of retail and hospitality within the district, that they are willing to support indies with this proposed funding.

“A number of business owners have been trying to call attention to the challenges faced by smaller independent businesses recently.

“A movement seems to be developing within the business community and has growing support amongst residents too.

“Well-run independent businesses help make visiting Harrogate a unique and memorable experience.

"A robust mix of larger stores and chains combined with a strong indie sector keeps people shopping and enjoying leisure time in our town centre.”

Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development, Graham Swift proposed the motion at a full council meeting last night.

Coun Swift said: “We want to show that we are willing to help independent businesses in any way we can. We want to ensure that we maintain our diverse range of experiences in the district.

“The fear is that bringing in chains means every town looks the same. Independents play such an important role in differentiating.”

The Chief Executive Officer of the Harrogate District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Sandra Doherty, hopes the funding will encourage more people to think about the challenges that indies face.

She said: “Independent businesses are very important for the town, because they are what makes us unique and different from every other town centre This is a good start."

Mr Rawlinson added: “So many people end up having an experience in a larger business they would describe as fine, purely because they are not aware of what is available within the independent sector.

“If we can get more people using fantastic indies it will positively impact the enjoyment of visiting Harrogate and people are more likely to visit again in the future.”

Mr Rawlinson said Baltzersen’s is not intimidated by chains.

He said: “We will not worry about them, or feel intimidated by them. Our task is to forge strong relationships with our guests, hear them and strive to improve our offer so they continue to come back.”