Love Your High Street: Warm welcome for everyone on Harrogate's '˜truly special' Cold Bath Road
With the '˜rare quality of a close-knit' business community, Cold Bath Road continues to grow into a bustling hub of independent shopping for Harrogate.
In our third edition of the Advertiser’s Love Your High Street campaign, which launched earlier this month in the build up to Christmas, we have continued our efforts to showcase the best of the town’s independent businesses.
With the national drive to support indies, Cold Bath Road owners have seen an increasing number of people flocking to the street, populated by a range of shops including cafes, bakeries, florists, toy shops, pubs and restaurants.
The range of businesses, coupled with a community of owners wanting to help each other, has become all the more important, says Lyndsay Wells owner of Fit Harrogate, a gym and sportswear shop.
When asked what was special about Cold Bath Road she said: “I think its the unique community that we have here. When we originally came here, places like La Feria, Hoxton and other businesses weren’t open. We loved the street, coming up and down on our way to Valley Gardens with the kids, which is when we spotted this unit and I just loved the location.
“We knew it was a bit out of the town, and the rents and rates for independents are ridiculous in the centre, new businesses can’t afford to be here. But I walk into work a lot, and coming down from the top of the hill you can see there is so much going on.
“The community and people I have met in my time here have been brilliant. Everyone really wants to support each other, and it’s the first time in my adult life I have really felt a part of a community.”
She added: “It’s getting harder and harder to be in retail, and I think there are a number of reasons for that.
“This year with businesses like Topshop and H&M leaving the town, it has affected footfall. On Cold Bath Road we don’t particularly get town centre traffic coming up this way. It’s all about how we get people up here, word of mouth is so important, and having people to collaborate with is vital.
“Being an independent is hard, we don’t have the marketing budget of larger companies and can’t throw a load of money at it if we are having a bad time.
“Having the council highlight the peripheral streets a little bit more, would help. Even when the Christmas market is on we don’t get anything. Something which could point people in our direction, maybe the Tourist Information Centre directing people here could really help.”
Originally starting out as an employee at 4 Seasons flower shop, Louise Ford would later purchase the business aged just 24. After 11 years, supplying the likes of Bettys, offering flowers fresh from auction in the Netherlands, she believes attitudes to shopping are changing.
But while support is swinging behind independents, there is still room to improve how they could be supported.
She said: “I’d say that over the last 11 years things here have definitely changed. People’s views are changing about supporting independents and it’s finally got through how important they are.
“It has got busier and Cold Bath (Road) has become a bit of a hub, which is great to see. There are so many independents here, which bring some real character to the street.”
She added: “I would say that business rates at the moment are horrendous, it can make things quite tough.”
While also concerned over the conditions of trade in the town centre, Louise said that areas like Cold Bath Road are an increasingly important draw for Harrogate as a shopping destination.
She said: “I think footfall is terrible in the town centre, there is nothing to bring me into town now, with so many empty shops. “But I think that is why having streets like Cold Bath Road are so important.”
The Christmas period is obviously a vital time for traders on Cold Bath Road, and many of them are now calling for more to be done to draw in the visitors.Louise said: “I think with Christmas coming up we have talked about wanting to set up our own Christmas lights, the town centre ones usually stop at the bottom of Cold Bath Road. It would be really good to see something in place here.
"“It’s an important time for independents. Really, it is the busiest time of year for everyone and it is where they make most of their money. It’s absolutely vital for us.
Earlier this month it was announced that Cold Bath Road’s Post Office could cease operating.
It currently has signs advertising the unit as selling fireworks. With the news also that the Post Office on Cambridge Road could close too there are fears that the lack of a town Post Office could harm traders.
Louis Rendel, owner of children toy and games shop, Little Alligators, said: “We used it (Cold Bath Road Post Office) for posting items and now, especially if the one in town goes as well, it wouldn’t be very helpful. “As a business it was convenient for us to be able to post packages all over world.”
Despite challenges such as the closure of the Post Office, businesses on the road continue to ‘share and back each other up,’ says Pam Lewis of Tilly Peppers cafe.
Having been a fixture of Cold Bath Road for the past four years, she and husband Anthony will soon be saying a fond farewell to the cafe.
Mrs Lewis believes the atmosphere among traders is ‘truly special.' She said: “There is no rivalry here, it’s a very supportive community and we all help each other out. That is really rare and doesn’t always happen. Everyone shares and backs each other up. “We have actually just sold the cafe and are in the middle of changing hands at the moment. We are ready for a change of scenery, but we have loved every minute of being here. It will be staying Tilly Peppers and still keeping 'the home from home ethos'.“The road reminds me so much of Muswell Hill in London, and that was where I brought up my children. It was centred around a school too, like here (Western Primary School) and very family oriented. We feel like we are big part of the community.”