Retail boost for Harleston high street

A Norfolk market town has received a retail boost after four new independent shops opened in the high street in the last three months.

Harleston has further heightened its reputation for shopping after three stores that were closed by fire last year have also begun trading again.

Officials in the south Norfolk town said the high street was bucking the national trend with very few empty shop fronts and only a handful of national chains.

In the last few months, the former chief executive of Creative Arts East, Nicky Stainton, opened Wilderness Stores in Bullock Fair Close and former learning support assistant Gill Hawkes established the Sparkle and Flair jewellery store in the town's empty bookshop in Old Market Place.

Harleston's main high street has also seen the opening of Spitspot gift shop and garden giftware store Honeysuckle Days in the past few weeks.

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The Thoroughfare has also been boosted by the return of the Harleston Turf bookmakers after 14 months following a devastating fire. And the Harleston Gallery has also relocated to its former location on the high street and seen the opening of a new caf�, the Fluffy Egg Diner, following refurbishment after the blaze last July.

Norman Hart, one of the founding members of Harleston Information Plus, said there were now very few empty or boarded up store fronts in the town.

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'In a little place like Harleston, seven shops that were not there three months ago is quite an impact. There are 100 outlets in Harleston and by national standards we should have 10pc empty – we are down to four,' he said.

The Harleston Gallery reopened in the Thoroughfare last week after moving to the former bank building in Old Market Place in 2008.

Owner Caryl Challis said she was delighted to be returning to where she started the gallery 10 years ago, despite the smaller space.

'It has been a wonderful renovation and too good an opportunity to miss moving back to a pristine location,' she said.

Mother-of-two Julie Herbert, of Mendham, who opened Honeysuckle Days in the Thoroughfare last week, added that Harleston provided a 'lovely' shopping atmosphere.

'We have not got the chain stores here and one woman from Lowestoft came in who said she always goes to Southwold for her shopping, but said she will come here from now on,' she said.

Coral Randall, opened Spitspot in the Thoroughfare after spending four months operating a stall in the Castle Mall.

The shopkeeper, of Weybread, who makes curtains, blinds and soft furnishings, added: 'The people in Harleston are the friendliest and nicest people I have come across and they have come in and wished me well and there has been very nice feedback. I'm glad I did it.'

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