What is Indie Harrogate, is the question some in town are asking?
The answer is simple. It's the first step in Harrogate’s independent scene having its own branding, its own guide - the creation for the first time, perhaps, in Harrogate of a real ‘indie’ community which can take on the chains.
The town has been transformed in recent years, its existing independents like Williams & Vics restaurant and shops in the Montpellier Quarter being joined by a new wave of ‘indies’ across the town centre and areas like Cold Bath Road and Kings Road, something this newspaper has supported with its Love Our Indies campaign.
There was only ever going to be one man behind the latest move, someone whose award-winning cafe and restaurant have made a big impression since opening in Harrogate in 2104.
Paul Rawlinson is the owner of Scandi cafe Baltzersen’s and director of Nordic-influenced restaurant Norse, both based in Harrogate.
Supporting and promoting indie business has been something Paul has been doing through Baltzersen’s and Norse - and his own blog.
A member of the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, he is passionate about the difference that a strong indie sector can bring to Harrogate’s offer as a destination for residents and tourists alike.
It’s no surprise that, having been involved with the three most recent incarnations of the Leeds Indie Food Festival, Paul has now come up with the concept of Indie Harrogate which is designed to give smaller businesses a platform to raise their profile and compete more effectively with chains, without the need for big budgets and marketing teams.
Indie Harrogate was launched with an informal and relaxed but packed out ‘Pitch Party’ at popular Harrogate independent bar Major Tom’s Social .
With his close connections to Leeds’s more developed indie scene, Paul is well placed to spread the word on the importance of independents coming together in common purpose.
Paul, who lives in Harrogate with his wife Katie and their two boys Seth and Toby, said: “There has been growing interest in the project since we started making plans a few months ago.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and we’re now ready to share the details with the independent business community.
“Our initial discussions with local business owners suggest there’s plenty of support, so we’re keen to keep up momentum with this first event.”
There may be fears that Harrogate is being swamped by a tidal wave of chains but recent years have also seen a new wave of independents open in town.
Significant new cafes to join long-running independent success stories such as Bettys tearooms include Bean & Bud, Hoxton North, Indulge and Baltzersens.
In terms of restaurants, famous names like William & Vics, Sasso and the Drum and Monkey have been joined by the likes of Norse, Galo’s Kitchen and Restaurant 92.
As for bars, stalwarts like the Coach & Horses and the Old Bell Tavern now face competition from new local indies such as Major Tom’s Social, Harrogate Tap, North Bar, The Little Alehouse and Starling’s Independent Beer & Coffee House.
Back in the 1990s, independent clothes shops were still dominant on Parliament Street and James Street in Harrogate.
Setting a template for the future were the upscale shops, auction houses and galleries in the Montpellier area of Harrogate who 25 years ago got together to pioneer the art of promoting the interests of locally-owned independents.
Next month will see the likes of Rocca designer ladies fashions, Farrah’s Olde Sweet Shop and Sutcliffe Contemporary Art holding a giant street party-cum-late night shopping event to celebrate the Montpellier Quarter’s big anniversary.
But next week’s Pitch Party for the Indie Harrogate brand at Major Tom’s Social bar looks like being the most significant step forward to date in the independents’ fightback against the chains.
Paul Rawlinson is planning to create a strikingly-designed, engaging guide book highlighting the best of local independent businesses, with a supporting website and next week’s launch event will outline how businesses can get involved in the project.
Design agency Oslo has developed the stylish branding and layout for the guide, while Harrogate-based company The Content Market will work with businesses to create the pages.
Once completed, it will be produced by local company Platinum Print.
Indie Harrogate will showcase those independent cafés, restaurants and shops that offer quality products and service, helping readers to find hidden gems.
Paul said: “We’re really fortunate in Harrogate that we have some fantastic independent businesses doing brilliant work.”
“Indie Harrogate aims to bring them together to give them a more powerful collective voice. It will also help locals and visitors to find the best independent businesses and make the choice to support a great local company.”
Indie Harrogate will also involve the #ThinkIndie hashtag and the Twitter handle @indieharrogate