Meet Clive Keeble. He’s an independent bookseller, now rarer than the white rhino, and moving to Wellington after 10 years in Langport. Nor is he alone. In a sudden High St boom that almost no one foresaw, three more new businesses are about to open their doors in town.
“I’ve looked at premises in small towns all over Devon & Cornwall and drawn a red line through all of them,” said Clive, who’s also owned bookshops in Sherborne and Winchester. “I think Wellington is going to work for me. It’s got a real buzz about it.”
So intense is the current demand for retail space that Rotary has had to postpone its annual charity booksale, scheduled to begin on March 10, because it cannot find an empty shop. “With a heavy heart we’ve had to take the decision to put the sale off until after the summer,” said Rotary secretary Symon Jeffery, of estate agents Wilkie, May & Tuckwood.
Warrens intend re-open the long closed Crusty Roll as a bakery in the very near future, the Asian speciality goods firm Chandni Chowk are moving into the former Town & Country shop opposite the Royal Mail office and agents for the former Stead & Simpson shoe shop say that a tenancy deal is close to finalised.
It seems bizarre that only a year ago Wellington was lamenting its lack of success in securing a “Portas grant” to kickstart struggling small town High Streets. But the turnaround is real enough and there is new commercial optimism in the air.
“It is great news that these new retail outlets will soon be trading in Wellington”, says Andy Sully, Wellington Business Association spokesperson for Economic Development and Planning.
“Wellington is growing fast and is on the up! The town has turned a corner from last year, with a reduction in empty shops. This looks to be a clear sign that business confidence is returning to our high street. Wellington’s revival will be based on not becoming a cloned town, but by providing customers with a different and unique shopping experience, with individual retail shops working alongside national retailing chains.”