Oxford Street is one of Harrogate’s most important parts of its high street - and most diverse.
But could its mix of the contemporary and historic, arts and retail hold the key to the town centre’s future? We talked to traders for the latest of the Harrogate Advertiser's Love Your High Street series supporting the town centre.
If anything in Harrogate sums up the possible future of the modern high street, it’s probably Oxford Street.
With one part pedestrianised and the other open to cars, its make-up of shops, cafes and, in the case of Wesley Chapel, one of the UK’s leading centres of classical music, is an incredibly lively and diverse one. It’s the mix that’s the thing, it seems.
Running all the way from Parliament Street to Station Parade, this key street is home to everything from recent national chains such as Primark (the back of it, at least) back to long-running independents such as AR Newsagents, a bank and charity shops, not to forget two of the most important arts hubs in the whole town.
Times may be challenging on high streets across the UK, but the fact that at least two of the above-mentioned are looking at expanding is testimony to this important area of Harrogate’s vibrancy and openess to change.
Not content with the success of Baltzersens, the award-winning independent Scandinavian-inspired cafe famous for its great coffee, cinnamon buns and skolebrød (Norwegian custard buns) at 22 Oxford Street, director Paul Rawlinson is now set to open a coffee shop offshoot next door at 1PU, 22 Oxford Street, formerly occupied by T he Champagne Concept.
Mr Rawlinson said that the wide mix of traders on Oxford Street were very supportive of each other in general.
He said: “Overall, it’s a supportive street to be on, we’re very happy here, and we’re hoping that by opening our new coffee shop directly next to our current cafe we’ll be able to attract even more people onto Oxford Street soon.
“It will be smaller than the current cafe with different decor so we’re just going to be offering coffee/tea/cold drinks and Scandi-inspired cakes and bakes rather than the full menu we offer in cafe currently.”
With Debenhams at one end (the side door, at least) and Harrogate Theatre at the other, the large-scale enterprises book-ending Oxford Street are balanced by smaller, independent businesses among the most established in town.
Oxford Street is the very definition of ‘mixed use’.
Along with the likes of Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Austin Reed, visitors to Oxford Street will also find the following...
At number 14 there is Jespers of Harrogate, which has been providing fine writing pens and stationery since 1901.
At number seven in Opera House Buildings, one of the UK’s most famous button shops, Duttons for Buttons, which has been offering an invaluable service to theatres, films, designers and home dressmakers since 1906.
Duttons group manager Michelle Horton said: “We are a family business and have lots of lovely regular local customers and from all around the country.”
At number 47, there is a relative newcomer - Starling Bar Cafe Kitchen. Starling’s manager Lee Cooper said: “We love being on Oxford street as it’s got a great selection of interesting indies alongside us and we are in a fabulous building - one of the oldest in central Harrogate.”
But, perhaps the biggest influence on Oxford Street’s long-term future will be one of its longest residents - Harrogate Theatre which first opened its doors in 1900.
It hopes to expand its facilities in the future for the benefit not just of Oxford Street but of the entire town.
Director Paul Rawlinson of Baltzersens cafe:
“Being on Oxford Street, we’re lucky in that we have the advantage of attracting passers-by, but the other independent businesses here are incredibly supportive. It definitely works both ways.
"since we stopped offering disposable takeaway cups back in May, we often send customers without reusable cups down to Starling cafe, if we can.
"The community we have at the cafe is also something special, not only within our tight-knit team (some of whom have been with us since the beginning) but also amongst our guests.
"We encourage participation, whether it's leaving us some feedback online, commenting on our social media posts, or coming to our 'pop-up' evening events like our Gingerbread Decorating Workshops or FredagsRamen, our ramen night taking place on November 30.
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Love Your High Street - Oxford Street shops: What They Say
Adrian Rodda of AR News newsagent:
“We’ve been here 40 years as a traditional newsagent, offering a personal delivery service for the elderly.
"We accept pre-paid vouchers for newspapers for regular customers. It's very important to support newspapers.
"We also offer greetings cards from independent suppliers, sweets, drinks, iced cream and a great selection of jigsaws.
"It's full of independent traders and pedestrianisation helped us. It makes our part of Oxford Street a pleasanter shopping environment.
Lee Cooper of Starling Independent Bar Cafe Kitchen:
"We love being on Oxford street as it’s got a great selection of interesting indies alongside us in games crusade, Porters & Baltzersens.
"As well as the theatre and premium national brands such as M&S and Jojo Mama Bebe.
"It has the benefits of being very centrally located but just off the main high street and larger chain premises of Parliament street.
"Starling specifically is in a fabulous building - one of the oldest in central Harrogate (we have a heritage plaque out front which maybe worth a pic this aft if you want to focus on the heritage angle) in Priory Cottage and its milking barn which forms the rear portion of the building.
"It feels great to be breathing life back into this historic pillar of Harrogate history."
Andy Shuttleworth of Porters menswear:
“Oxford Street is a great location with a great mix of independant retailers.
"As a premium menswear store that has traded on Oxford street for 20 years we have a very loyal following.
"The Jubilee car park makes shopping with us an easy pop in destination, too.”
Peter Jesper of Jespers of Harrogate:
“Having spent my whole working life in Oxford Street for nearly 40 years, I’ve seen many changes in our part of town both good and bad. Harrogate’s independent retailers are passionate to succeed.
"I would urge everyone to support indies in the run-up to Christmas.”
Michelle Horton of Duttons for Buttons:
“Duttons for Buttons is a family business starting in 1906 as a trimming merchants in Leeds serving the tailoring trade.
“All our staff are knowledgeable and are happy to help and advise on all your various sewing and knitting projects.
“We supply theatres, films, and designers and home dressmakers via our mail order service.
“We have lots of lovely regular local customers and also from all around the country who come specially to choose buttons."
David Bown of Harrogate Theatre:
“There is a great sense of community on Oxford Street. Our theatre brings residents and visitors from all over the world to Harrogate, which then has a knock on effect for the shops, restaurants, hotels too.”
In the build-up to Christmas the Harrogate Advertiser, along with sister titles in Johnston Press across the country, is campaigning to champion our town’s shops and small businesses, and encouraging readers to shop locally with our Love Your High Street campaign.
In association with Card Factory