Stratford's bounce back hope as three new independent outlets open
HOPEFUL signs of Stratford’s long-awaited “bounce back” appeared with the opening of three new independent outlets this week.
Clothes and popular culture novelty shop Entourage and holistic therapy centre Kate Robbins both opened in Greenhill Street, while design-led store Design 44 opened in Bell Court.
Commercial letting agent and chartered surveyor Tim Cox, who has decades of experience in the area, told the Herald: “At the moment the national retailers are quite demanding – they’ll come into the town, want six months’ lease and low rents or whatever. Landlords are therefore favouring independent businesses.
“This is a real opportunity for independents, which is great as it gives us more width and a variety of different uses. I think it’s going to be a busy summer, and if government guidelines allow, Stratford is going to recover really well.”
Jon-Sel Gourkan, who owns Entourage, says he has dreamed of opening a shop since he was a boy but got distracted by an acting career, being a professional footballer and was even a pop star at one point.
He said: “I have a big interest in fashion and pop culture and since there is not much acting work at the moment I decided to take the plunge with the shop. Stratford hasn’t had a shop like this in quite a while and it’s something for the younger generation.
“There are good brands in stock, clothes and merchandise. We have iconic film prints, very rude cards, rude mugs – I want a shop with good humour and positivity. I just want a happy environment where people can browse and be themselves.”
Kate Robbins has opened her new premises a few doors up from Entourage, having previously been based at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The new centre offers a raft of treatments, from sports massage to meditation classes, as well as boasting an on-site clinical aromatherapist and reiki specialist.
Kate said: “Since the start of the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in the numbers of individuals looking for ways to deal with stress, and the effect this new reality is having both physically and mentally.
“Our new premises gives us scope to offer a much broader range of services to our clients. Our aim is to provide a space where individuals can come and relax and dedicate time to their own health and wellbeing.
“This is a scary time to be expanding a business but I do believe we’re going to bounce back. I think the slower pace of life during lockdown has really shown people how important self-care is and as our beautiful town starts to comes back to life, it feels like the perfect time and place for this move.”
At Bell Court, Design 44 is selling lifestyle and handmade gifts from more than 50 UK makers, as well as Scandinavian and eco brands and house plants.
Owner Jade Devall opened her first shop in 2013 in Derby. She said: “When we viewed the shop and the area, we knew straight away that our brand would be a perfect fit here at Bell Court.
“It has a great mix of shops and restaurants and the buzz and energy here really stood out to us. We are so excited to be here.”