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Dying high streets? How town’s traders are bucking the trend

Tom and Kerry Unwin run Eden in Stalham High Street, which has nearly been open a year. Pictures: David Bale

Tom and Kerry Unwin run Eden in Stalham High Street, which has nearly been open a year. Pictures: David Bale

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Stalham used to have a bad reputation as a shopping and leisure destination but it’s thriving today with just two empty shops in the high street. Spearheading the town’s resurgence are several independent traders enticing visitors from near and far. Reporter DAVID BALE took a stroll along the high street.

Tom and Kerry Unwin inside Eden in Stalham High Street. Pictures: David BaleTom and Kerry Unwin inside Eden in Stalham High Street. Pictures: David Bale

When Tesco arrived in Stalham there were dire predictions that it signalled the death knell for its high street.

And while things have been tough at times, today's independent traders are heralding in a new dawn.

That has been spearheaded by the Stalham Area Business Forum, whose initial aim was to get shops communicating and supporting each other. That has worked well and businesses are all in it together now.

Among the businesses blazing a trail for originality and diversity is the family-run Eden shop on Stalham High Street.

Eden in Stalham High Street. Pictures: David BaleEden in Stalham High Street. Pictures: David Bale

Husband and wife Tom and Kerry Unwin named the shop after their daughter Eden, 14, and it opened on March 8 last year, which means they have nearly survived in business for a whole year.

The shop sells homeware, gifts and plants and Mr Unwin said: "There are a lot of negative high street stories around with a lot of the larger names struggling.

"It is a tough time on the high street for all shops, especially small independent shops, with internet shopping, and people not visiting the high street, but it's been better than expected for us.

"We had a really good Christmas and January was better than expected. There's a lot of positivity from people, who say it's lovely to have a shop on the high street, and that it's just what Stalham needs.

Karl Linturn, owner of Daddy Donuts, at his Stalham cafe. Picture: Stuart AndersonKarl Linturn, owner of Daddy Donuts, at his Stalham cafe. Picture: Stuart Anderson

"We've tried to offer items you cannot find in other shops. If you sell stuff other people are selling, people are so worried about the price. With our house plants people can pick a pot to go with it, which you cannot do in many places, which adds to the personal service."

They hope to start selling online soon and urged people to visit the high street.

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He added: "People need to support their local shops and break from their routine, going to their set places, such as Tesco in Stalham. We are working and supporting each other in the high street.

The opening of Cafe Charlotte in Stalham with Steve, Clare and Charlotte Traynor. Picture by John McleodThe opening of Cafe Charlotte in Stalham with Steve, Clare and Charlotte Traynor. Picture by John Mcleod

"We have a lot of regulars, some who come from Lowestoft or Blofield, have lunch, take the dog for a walk, and take the effort to come and see us."

Steve Traynor, secretary of the Stalham Area Business Forum, believes businesses are pulling together.

The forum hosts three street fairs - a yuletide market, antiques and collectables and fringe festival.

With wife Clare, he runs the popular Cafe Charlotte in the high street, which has been trading since 2016.

He said: "We started the forum about four years ago. At that time there were a lot of businesses on the high street, but they weren't really communicating or chatting and helping each other.

"We named Cafe Charlotte after our daughter Charlotte, who is going on eight. We're originally from Birmingham, and as a family we feel welcomed by the community - my great-uncle used to have a farm in East Ruston.

"We've given breakfast a slight slant, with our wherryman's breakfast served on a skillet. We're like a French-style street cafe with a licence. We sell alcohol and have a courtyard in the summer. We're a vegan and meat cafe, and our gluten-free cake is very popular.

"Stalham had a bad reputation when Tesco came. But in my experience it's got a really good buzz about it. There are only two shops closed in the high street - Truly Local and the old bookmaker's."

Meanwhile, Daddy Donuts' Karl Linturn is opening an extension at his high street business, which will be called Daddy Ds American diner.

His donut burgers - a beef burger, bacon and cheese in between glazed doughnuts in place of a bun - are proving popular and he added: "I will be wearing a uniform from March. You have to offer something different to be successful."

He opened the cafe in April 2018 with his wife Kayleigh.


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