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Businesses sign up to give Skipton store a new lease of life
When department store Beales closed in Skipton last year, there were fears the huge two-storey site between Swadford Street and the bus station would have been near impossible to fill in the current economic climate.
The site, which until April last year was also home to a Co-op food store and the post office, faced an uncertain future.
But just two months later, three-quarters of the site has been taken up and most of the remainder is in the “advanced negotiation” stage, with much of it hopefully up and running by the spring.
There are also plans for the canalside, two-storey warehouse building, which could become Skipton’s own version of Salts Mill at Saltaire.
It is a success story for owner Leeds-based Chapel Allerton Investments, which bought the property three years ago and gained planning permission for its sub-division in 2011.
“We have made a concerted effort to retain the first floor as operating space rather than it reverting to storage and we are thrilled that we have managed to achieve this,” said a company spokesman.
“We are convinced the operators we have already signed up will raise the profile of Skipton as a place to visit and shop.”
Upstairs, almost half of the floor will be taken up by Colne-based Intershape Fitness. The fitness centre, which will include classes, will continue with the existing cafe but will have its own new entrance from the ground floor.
Much of the Swadford Street end of the ground floor and part of the first floor will be taken up by Scarborough-based department store Boyes Stores.
Chairman and joint managing director Andrew Boyes said the family-run firm had been looking at moving to Skipton for some time and was investing a “substantial amount” into the project.
The store, which has a similarly sized branch in Ilkley, sells family and home goods, apart from food items.
Mr Boyes said: “We are very excited about coming to Skipton, it should work very well. It is a good location next to the bus station and we’re looking forward to cracking on.”
Mr Boyes said they hoped to start fitting out the premises in March and open for business in May.
A walkway will remain from Swadford Street to the bus station through Handpicked Hall – an old concept in shopping.
Handpicked Hall is the brainchild of Anthony Blackburn, who himself faced a bleak future when early last year he was forced to close his own small department store, Philip Hall, in Ripon.
He put a sign up in the window advertising space to individual traders, and the space was quickly taken up by small businesses selling wares such as artisan breads, handpainted signs, jewellery and vintage clothing.
Stall-holders can sign up for as little as £10 a day, for just one day a week, or several days a month. They are typically those with another career and are looking to start up a new business.
When the chance of moving into premises in Skipton came up, Mr Blackburn together with business partner Chris Ure, decided it was too good to miss.
He said: “I think there is great potential. There are so many people out there with great ideas and we want to be able to give them the opportunity to trade in a premium High Street location at affordable prices.”
All potential stall-holders will have to undergo an interview to make sure what they sell fits in with the Handpicked Hall ethos.
The trading area will be set up permanently with an attractive uniform livery and will be managed by a team who will also offer business advice and run the occasional workshop. Traders will not have to pay business rates or utility bills and will have free access to Handpicked Hall’s website.
Traders can also become partners and share the time they are on the stall, so their products can be sold even when they’re not there.
Mr Blackburn agrees with Mary Portas’ 2011 review of high streets in which she suggested the use of indoor and outdoor markets to set new businesses off.
He said: “We are bringing back what people loved about the High Street and I believe Skipton is the kind of town that will embrace Handpicked Hall.”
As of last week, 15 traders had already signed up, eight who already lease space at the Ripon site.
Meanwhile, Chapel Allerton also has plans for the former storage warehouse buildings running alongside the canal.
“We are looking at various options for the canalside buildings, including residential, workspace or any other ideas that may come forward as we do not want to leave the buildings empty and unused,” the spokesman added.