Businesses in Garforth say community is the key to success for local independents

By Emily Horner

Garforth Main Street is a rarity compared to other local high streets. It has lost a few significant shops, yet it is not full of empty properties, with more to offer than just the usual charity and betting shops. But do the local independents feel that a sense of competition has been created now that the retail park, Springs Thorpe Park, has passed its one year anniversary, and is only a 10-minute bus ride away?

Christine Thom is from a marketing and IT background and now writes the blog, The Main Deal, with the latest news about Garforth Main Street. She says that people should buy into the town they want to live in and not just their home.

“I started to see a real disconnection between community and business,” she says. “Why did people go elsewhere, why did people leave the place they call home? When someone buys a house, they mostly ask the question, ‘what’s the high street like?’  and then don’t bother using it once they’ve moved in. 

“85% of people who own a business in Garforth live locally – they could lose their livelihood, which in turn would have a knock-on effect- our local economy would die out and house prices would be affected if we didn’t have a good thriving town.”

Image from Christine Thom, The Main Deal

 

Cielo’s cafe is one of the local businesses on Main Street which does thrive and has lasted the test of time. The cafe first opened back in 2008, under its original name Baraka’s. The owner, Nick, said that he does feel a competition.

He said: “Our sales dropped significantly with the opening of Wetherspoons and Costa, not to mention the two Costas at Springs retail park.”


Though independents do have something that the chain shops can’t replicate. Nick adds that a community feel is what makes the independents thrive.

He said: “We also run a volunteer scheme for lots of local people from young people after school, to people with learning difficulties, mental health challenges, retired, and local people with spare time.”

Christine agrees that local businesses can add more of a buzz to a town, but they need to be active on social media to better promote themselves.

She said: “I feel if you don’t connect with the people, they can’t see you, they don’t look for you, and businesses are still in this day and age, waiting for that passerby.”

Refill & Go opened this year. It carries the ethos of a low waste lifestyle, selling goods to bulk buy and reusable everyday products as alternatives.

Scott Cooper, one of the co-owners, believes community ethos is at the heart of a business like theirs: “Garforth is our home town. It is a largely populated area so it gives more options to people other than the supermarkets.”

Co-owner Angela Cooper adds: “We’ve had the Girl Guides and the Beavers in to teach them about reducing waste. We like to have community involvement- we’ve asked customers to decorate the shop and our products are made from local suppliers”.

However, newer local cafe, Pride and Produce, reopened by owners Hannah and Bianca in 2018, said their overarching aim is to bring a bit of Leeds to Garforth, yet they too support this community feel.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and outdoor

Image from Pride and Produce

Hannah said: “We feel that Costa attracts a different type of customer. We are very different to Costa, and we have faith that the people of Garforth appreciate that.

“I think there’s a healthy mix of independents and chain stores at the moment. Main Street is growing – and the more the better for us. 

“But in our opinion we must all support independents – they are the lifeblood of any community. It’s the independents that make Main Street what it is and sets it apart from other ‘at risk’ high streets.”

It appears that Garforth Main street does not need to fret about any competition that Springs Thorpe Park may impose. Residents congregate to their local high street to enjoy the community they live in- something that a retail park can’t replicate as much.

 

 

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