New businesses are arriving in Grantham town centre and others are expanding.
A mini boom in Grantham’s economic fortunes may be heralding an upturn in the town’s economy.
A revival seems underway in both the half-empty George Centre and High Street.
On Monday, the George Centre enjoyed a double opening, with the arrival of Bon Patisserie in units 10 and 11 and the Katana Japanese restaurant at unit 1.
Nearby in High Street, the Works discount chain has returned, opening today in the former premises of Game.
The YMCA is opening a charity store on High Street, near to the Old Bank, which re-opened last month following a £225,000 refurbishment.
Furthermore, at the other side of High Street, two barber shops are preparing for an imminent opening- BarberZone and Razor Sharp.
And at the entrance to the Isaac Newton Centre, on St Peter’s Hill, workmen are busily renovating empty premises for Loungers, a trendy bar/restaurant/cafe.
Grantham’s new arrivals reported they were more than happy with their opening days.
Hayley Gibson of Bon Patisserie said: “It’s been really busy. I’m non-stop from when we open at 9am until after 2.30pm.
I am confident things will only get better as other businesses move in to The George.
“It’s a lovely shopping centre and already it is starting to fill up, with the restaurant and others to follow. It’s great to be here, there’s already a lot of footfall in the George and things are looking very positive.”
Deepak Chatri, of Katana, said business started off “slow and steady”, just as he wanted, but it quickly picked up.
“We have had a good response from people. All the customers think it’s a really beautiful restaurant with good ambience and friendly staff. Customers are coming in from Nottingham for teppanyaki, as it’s something different. People are picking up the menus and saying they will come back.”
He added: “The George Centre is a lovely shopping centre with easy access. I am very confident things will get better. Our restaurant is attracting more people to the centre. It’s very exciting. It’s all going very well.”
Plans have just been submitted to South Kesteven District Council for a major extension to the Feelgood Fitness Gym. The owners want to take up downstairs space in The George for new and innovative family exercise services and move to 24/7 opening.
Gym owner Dave Wright says his business has been the longest of all those in the centre and he has seen much change. He said previous owners thought they could charge ‘London rents’ which hampered occupancy but its new owners are more realistic.
He said: “The George is a beautiful shopping centre. I am also very excited for Grantham. With the likes of the out-of-town shopping village, there’s going to be a lot more investment. The train station has also cleaned up its act. I’m very optimistic about Grantham.”
Nigel Thompson, founder of London-based managing agents X Real Estate, which runs the George, is making progress on his plan to fill the centre in two to three years. His company has been offering flexible terms, short-leases, and attracting ‘pop-up’ events such a recent car dealer display.
Mr Thompson said: “We are very pleased to have these new arrivals and we have had discussions with others and more inquiries than we have had for a long time. We have had many enquiries from independent retailers and we are keen to attract start-ups and can put together a package, with advice on marketing.”
He added: “We hope to announce new openings later this spring.”
In the High Street, openings include the Works (today), with Loungers, the YMCA and the two barber shops soon to follow.
The Works has created five new jobs in town. CEO Kevin Keaney said: “Our stores have been affectionately called ‘Aladdin’s caves’ by our customers with gifts for everyone, and we are delighted to be able to return to Grantham bringing our unique offer, generating new jobs for the area and we look forward to being part of the local community in the years to come.”
Loungers plans to open by the end of summer, once work being undertaken by their landlord is complete.
Loungers property manager Raj Manek said: “Customers from our existing Loungers recommended Grantham to us. We’ve been looking for the last couple of years and have finally found something!”
The YMCA charity, currently renovating its new shop on High Street, is equally bullish as it launched an appeal for clothing and other goods to stock its new store.
A spokesman said: “Grantham is a vibrant town with a well-established shopping centre.”
Council leader Matthew Lee welcomed the rising business occupancy levels in the town, though even at recent lower levels, Grantham still performed better than the national average.
SKDC didn’t want to claim credit for this, but the council leader said business confidence had increased since the council launched its investment plans last October.
InvestSK strategic lead Steve Bowyer said: “This flurry of new businesses coming to Grantham is fantastic news. The high street plays such an important role in the vitality of a town’s economy and it’s great to be welcoming a broad mix of organisations.
“With the recent spate of announcements around national brands closing or reviewing their outlets, this is a real show of confidence for businesses in South Kesteven. It is testament to the appeal and potential of Grantham, and underlines why it’s right for the district council to continue to support business growth through InvestSK.”