Bob's shop aims to keep it local
A SHOP opening in North Walsham town centre today will celebrate local producers and artists.Bob White, 57, the man behind the new Showcase Gallery, has turned his back on a career in national retailing and believes he has found a gap in the market, despite the recession.
A SHOP opening in North Walsham town centre today will celebrate local producers and artists.
Bob White, 57, the man behind the new Showcase Gallery, has turned his back on a career in national retailing and believes he has found a gap in the market, despite the recession.
Today's opening is a much-needed boost for North Walsham after the Harvey World Travel branch on Church Street, shut up shop last month, and 'closing-down sale' notices appeared on the windows of Market Street florist, Mulberry's.
Mr White's new venture opens this morning at 40a Market Place, former home of the Reload computer games and music shop, which closed earlier this year.
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Showcase Gallery's offerings will include paintings and prints, hand-turned wood gifts, pottery, exclusive glass-engraving and mirrors.
Mr White says much of his stock has been created within a 200-yard radius of the town centre and 90pc is produced in north Norfolk or is Norfolk-orientated, including what he believes is a first for the town - sticks of rock with 'North Walsham' written through them.
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Producers and craftspeople include North Walsham artist Diana Surridge, the Black Cat Pottery, Sutton Pottery, Norfolk Lavender, and Norfolk China.
Even the take-away coffee on sale has been roasted by a firm on the Rackheath industrial estate.
'There is nothing like this in North Walsham and I think people will always find money to buy something for a special occasion, without having to travel to Norwich.
'We also get a lot of visitors passing through looking for something locally-produced to take home and we could be doing more to cater for them,' said Mr White, who managed the North Walsham branch of national newsagent chain Martins, formerly Paper Chain, for 10 years. He has worked in retail since leaving school in his native Wales.
'National companies have become very regimented and procedure driven,' he said. 'There's no room for flair or independent thought.'
Mr White also plans to stock bus, train and tide timetables. He added: 'I don't want people to think of the shop as an art gallery where they've got to whisper. If they just want a North Walsham postcard or a stick of rock, not an �80 painting, that's absolutely fine.'