Marie's Emporium, Gravesend Borough Market
'Visits to UK town centres are down 17% over the past decade as online purchases rise 10% a year. On average, more than one in 10 shops have stood empty for at least 12 months, partly the legacy of 50m sq ft of out-of-town retail space being built from 2000 to 2009. Town centres’ function as a social adhesive has been eroded, sociologists warn.
‘MPs launched an inquiry into the state of the UK’s town centres which heed a warning from Savills, the property consultancy, that high streets could no longer be primarily retail locations but “need to become vibrant, flexible social hubs”. We are entering “the era of the experiential consumer”, Savills said.'
Gravesend Borough Market, completed in February 2017 and recently shortlisted for the Kent Design and Development Award 2018 ( link to blog post ), is part of Gravesham Borough Council’s bid to revitalise Gravesend town centre, and act as an incubator for new, local, start-up businesses.
In the face of all the bad news in the press it’s always great to hear some good news stories. Last week I met Graham Broadbent, who owns Marie’s Tea Room on the High Street next to the market. Graham was looking to expand his business into specialty teas and cake decorating ( riding off the popularity of shows such as the Great British Bake Off ), and started by hiring temporary stalls at the market where he ran group cake decorating classes and sold a variety of teas and sweet treats, both of which were so successful he has now taken up premises on the High Street, next door to his tea rooms, due to open soon ( premises pictured above, currently with "Slinders Florist" signage ). https://mariestearoom.co.uk/
As Gravesend is our home town, we, of course, take a very keen interest in the market. On weekends, friends and family have really taken to the roast duck noodles and Thai street food by Richy and family at the recently opened Pad Thai Live at the market’s food court. http://padthailive.com/
Last but not least, a shout out to Gravesham Urban Knitters, who meet at the market on Thursdays. https://www.facebook.com/graveshamknitters/