Delight as towns across our district spring back into life

Independent shops and businesses in North Kirklees are urging people to continue supporting their towns after the excitement of re-opening after lockdown.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 12:00 pm
Jenny Holden-Stokes and Gini Armitage at Creative Craft Centre, Dewsbury

Shops, hair and beauty salons and outdoor hospitality have all been welcoming back customers, many for the first time this year.

Store shutters were raised on Monday, April 12, and there was a real buzz in Cleckheaton where there were queues outside many shops by 9.15am.

Stephanie Norris, who teamed up with teenage filmmaker Sam Teale to make a video promoting the re-opening, was stunned by the reaction of shoppers.

Donna Pailing, at The Cobbles, Birstall, has demolished an outside toilet to create a cobbled courtyard for her cafe business so she has an outside eating area

“It was beyond our expectations,” said Stephanie, who runs Joshua Adams Menswear. “It was fantastic but now it’s all about keeping that buzz going.”

Cleckheaton was in the Yorkshire spotlight too as BBC Look North filmed live from George’s Bistro & Bar.

In Dewsbury, which has different challenges, it was a little quieter, though busier than a usual Monday.

Jenny Holden-Stokes, who runs Creative Craft Centre in Union Street, has seen her crafting supplies business boom online.

Julie and Rebecca Linskey happy to re-open their gift shop, Pour Vous, in Birstall after lockdown

She was inundated with customers on Monday and said: “I was busier than I dared hope! It was a lovely day. Everybody was on good form and were just pleased to get out.

“Crafting has been huge during lockdown and it’s probably that people had just run out of things they needed. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of it.”

Jenny urged people to support their local shops and said people’s negative perceptions of Dewsbury had to be changed.

“People say there aren’t any decent shops in Dewsbury or that there’s nowhere in town to buy gifts but we have a gift shop as part of our shop. It’s there if people look for it.”

Sue Baker, who runs Dewsbury’s oldest shop workwear and jewellery business John Greenwood’s, said: “We’re just glad to be back.”

Greenwood’s opened in 1856 and has seen it all before.

“We survived World War One and World War Two, so the pandemic was just a minor hiccup in our history,” said Sue.

Gareth Hardy, of toy and collectibles shop Cosmic Toys, has developed his online business during lockdown but said: “There’s nothing like the experience of coming into a shop. Dewsbury’s independent retailers need people to support them.”

In Birstall there’s a growing independent scene with many new traders.

Adam Bagnall and partner Rebecca Linskey opened sweet, gift and partyware shop Pour Vous last October, just before the second national lockdown.

They had a strong online presence and now want to make a success of their shop.

“It’s exciting to be back open,” said Adam. “Monday wasn’t as busy as it could have been but that’s probably because people were heading to the bigger towns and cities first.

"Birstall has a lot to offer and people are surprised when they come and take a look.”

At The Cobbles Café in Birstall, Donna Pailing wasn’t happy with serving takeaways only so she’s demolished an old outside toilet, exposing some lovely old cobbles and has set up a courtyard dining area.

“There’s a lot of happy people about,” said Donna. “It feels like one big step back to normality.”

Kirklees Council meanwhile has been working closely with local businesses to make sure town centres were ready to open safely.

After more than three months of restrictions that meant only essential shops could open, cafes, bars, restaurants, non-essential retail, hair and beauty and other businesses are welcoming customers back in a safe way.

Kirklees Council has launched a multi-media campaign to encourage local people to support their town centre businesses over the coming months. The campaign, which features 14 local businesses from a wide range of sectors and towns across the area, aims to highlight the fantastic, friendly service that local independent businesses provide.