Shoppers flock to Mansfield and Ashfield town centres as lockdown measures are eased
Shoppers have flocked to Mansfield and Ashfield town centres for the first time in months as lockdown measures across the country were eased on Monday.
There was a real buzz in the air as folk patiently queued for a haircut, pint or their favourite shop in scenes which will be a welcome sight for small business owners across the area with today marking the first time many had welcomed customers this year.
And alongside existing high street giants such as Primark and Costa, Mansfield is also seeing an emergence of several new businesses opening their doors for the first time as the town reawakens after months in lockdown.
Stock Monster now occupies the old BHS building on West Gate, selling a variety of discounted goods from household items to hardware, DIY products to toys and bedding.
And round the corner on Regent Street, the Toffee Hut has been working hard on its new premises and owner Rachel Richards says she is ‘thrilled’ to finally open her new shop.
Selling handmade toffee, fudge and speciality coffees, and using local suppliers, she hopes it will be a perfect extension to her thriving online business.
“We’re thrilled to finally be open and seeing town full of people again,” said Rachel.
"It’s been a hard slog, but we’re raring to go now.”
Harry Squires may only be 26, but the young entrepreneur has used his time in lockdown to make a career change – swapping life as a full-time tradesman to owning his own vintage clothing empire.
After being furloughed, he began selling his old clothes on online fashion marketplace Depop – which quickly became much more successful than he could envisage.
So, he decided against returning to his old career and has opened Credible Clothing, at 63 West Gate, which is packed full of designer brands and vintage classics for men and women.
He said: "I’m nervous, but really hope it takes off.
"Feedback so far has been brilliant, so hopefully that continues – it’s great to see town busy again.”
Meanwhile, another relative newcomer to the town centre is The Arcade Treasure Chest in Handley Arcade.
Owners Rowena Bratescu and Lois Thomas took over the shop in September and are hoping the current relaxation of restrictions will allow them to remain open for the foreseeable future.
Originally market traders with their handmade jewellery stall on Mansfield market, they decided to take over the business to create their dream of owning a curiosity shop – and now stock antiques, steam punk, collectables and militaria.
Rowena says: “The previous owner was also called Rowena, so it felt like fate to take this shop on.
"We are so excited to be open again and we can’t wait to see all our customers.”
Geraldine Barker is landlady of the Hare & Hounds pub in Warsop, which had a major refurbishment over lockdown, and she had urged regulars and new customers to follow social distancing rules when she re-opened.
She was happy to report the day went without a hitch, with lots of regulars returning for their first pint.
"It was absolutely fabulous” she said.
"It was really busy, but there was no trouble at all.
"We had last orders at 8.30pm and everyone was out by 9pm – I absolutely loved being open again!”
Tamer Abouelela, owner of Ciao Bella Italian restaurant on Nottingham Road also reported a trouble-free reopening.
He explained: “It was so nice to be back – staff were happy and customers were just really pleased to be sat on the terrace again.
"It was such a great feeling after all this time!”
Mansfield MP Ben Bradley was out and about in his constituency on reopening day and commented on the positive atmosphere in the town centre and shops.
Mr Bradley said: “I think it’s great that new businesses are opening up and it gives hope that the high street is not going to disappear.
"There are seven or eight new businesses that I’m already aware of and more to come in the next few weeks, which is great as we start to rebuild and get back to some kind of normal.
"The atmosphere in town was really positive and it’s great to see people out supporting local businesses.”
The New Cross pub at Sutton reopened with a new addition – a new beer garden named The Dew Drop Inn – which was the pub’s original name back in 1869, which was a real hit with the regulars.
Owner Mathew said: “We had a fantastic opening day yesterday, everyone enjoyed the new beer garden responsibly.
"I want to give a huge thanks to my team who worked really hard to make it a success.
"It’s great to be open again and see all of our lovely customers enjoying a pint.”
Elsewhere in Ashfield, the indoor market in the Idlewells shopping centre also reopened – with non-essential retailers finally able to rejoin the handful of stall-holders who have been operating during lockdown.
Traders such as Dream Catcher, Herbie’s Hemp, Memory Lane Cards and Tina’s Woolly Crafts joining the essential retailers who had remained open throughout the pandemic.
Theresa Hodgkinson, director of place and communities at Ashfield District Council, said “We are excited to see the whole of Idlewells Indoor Market reopen.
"It is a thriving hub in the community and it will be fantastic to see old, and new customers choosing to shop local and supporting local traders.
“The traders who have been forced to close since the first lockdown really need the support of our residents.
"It’s been a tough year for everyone but you could make a real difference if you shop small this summer.”