Fresh hope for North Walsham precinct as new shoe shop set to open

Two of North Walsham's top Christmas wishes look set to come true as a new shoe shop is set to open in the town's blighted shopping precinct.

Local couple Len and Ann Bullimore plan to open The Shoe Shop, selling shoes for all the family, in the former Aroma smoothie bar in the St Nicholas Court precinct on December 11.

The welcome news follows last week's closure of the town's Stead and Simpson, despite a 2,000-plus signature protest petition. The branch had traded in Market Place for more than a century.

It also coincides with another confidence boost for the struggling town with today's opening of a new Waitrose supermarket, on Cromer Road.

Mr and Mrs Bullimore, who run a North Walsham-based building firm with two of their three sons, hope the new shop will have a domino effect, bringing more custom to the precinct which will in turn encourage other retailers to move into St Nicholas Court where a number of large and small units have been empty for months or years.

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The Bullimores bought the unit in 2008 and their son Dale ran it as a smoothie bar for two-and-a-half years until the economic downturn bit, closing neighbouring businesses. Dale continued to run a gym on the first floor.

Since then the Bullimores have gradually bought three other units in the precinct as shops moved out and the premises came up for sale: hairdresser's Roger Hilton, Zelley's jeweller, and Counting Stitches.

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'We had an interest in the precinct because of Aroma and we wanted it to do well,' said Mrs Bullimore. 'We are 'low-key' people but we were waiting for an opportunity to get the ball rolling in some way with a shop.

'I was walking through the town and saw that Stead and Simpson was closing and that more than 2,000 people had signed a petition saying they still wanted a shoe shop in the town.

'I thought: 'Well we've got empty properties - this could be the opportunity we've been waiting for.' I just hope people will support it.'

The Bullimores are currently renovating the former Zelley's and plan to move their new shoe shop into it permanently in the spring.

They then want to re-open Aroma as a smoothie bar and move Dale's gym into the former Roger Hilton's hair salon.

And they are hoping someone will snap up the former Counting Stitches unit and open another shop there. They are planning to create a total of seven flats above the units.

Mair Stockdale, chairman of North Walsham Chamber of Trade, said they were 'absolutely delighted' that another shoe shop was opening and that its location brought hope of regenerating the precinct.

She hoped the vacant high street Stead and Simpson unit would be filled swiftly.

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