On 23 March 2020, UK high streets, town and city centres effectively closed for business.
Most retailers, offices, restaurants, coffee shops, cultural and leisure destinations shut their doors with only essential stores being allowed to stay open.
These enforced measures could not have come at a worse time. Pre-lockdown the high street was facing an uncertain future with the cumulative effect of the rapid growth of online shopping, rising rents and weak consumer spending all hitting hard. However, in an unexpected turn in fortune, all signs are indicating that the changes in consumer behaviour brought about by the imposed lockdown measures, have the potential to positively reshape the local high street and lay the foundation for a more resilient Covid-19 future.
When the pandemic first began to spread across the UK and government guidelines instructing the most vulnerable members of the community to shield were released, local support groups swiftly formed across the country to rally round and support those most in need. The Reigate Covid-19 Facebook support group was set up specifically to aid members of our community, providing a range of essential services for those shielding as well as highlighting the offerings of local businesses. The group quickly reached almost 3,000 members and became a vital life-life for shielding members within the community. During this period, we also saw many local food businesses swiftly adapting their usual offering to serve customers outside of their premises or offer much-needed delivery options, as well as local tailors repurposing their businesses to make and distribute PPE.
These incredible displays of community spirit, goodwill and willingness to support each other in a time of crisis, combined with the large number of people working from home, travelling less and living and shopping locally all deepened the social bond within the community and created an appreciation for a high street that many may have previously taken for granted.
It is these factors which offer the exciting potential for a post-pandemic rejuvenation of Reigate high street on a level that we have not seen before.
A growing confidence in the wealth of opportunities the high street presents is reflected in a wave of new independent businesses across a range of sectors opening up across Reigate. Recognising the importance of providing a differentiated product offering and unique experience, these new ventures offer local residents attractive environments to visit, dwell and socialise in.
Here is a round-up of some of the new businesses Reigate is welcoming:
New independent Reigate restaurant, Island House, opens its doors in the historic former site of ASK this Summer. Its ethos is centred around a vibrant neighbourhood environment with a passion for food, drink and a personal service. The menu will be fresh and changing, from healthy options to indulgent dishes. The drinks collection will feature quality coffee, homegrown cocktails and well sourced wine and beer. The restaurant will offer diners a truly magical place to hang out with en-chanting spaces and brilliant music.
SJ and Johnnie, who are behind the exciting venture, grew up in Epsom and explain why they select-ed Reigate: “Reigate has always been a place that we've enjoyed visiting. The town itself is beauti-ful with stunning historic buildings and we're very lucky to be able to bring a new lease of life to this one. The community is incredibly welcoming with a bunch of great independent shops and busi-nesses and we can't wait to be part of it”.
The couple chose the striking building because it “provides the perfect opportunity to deliver a va-riety of experiences - our cosy, historic lounge will be the perfect place to relax with a coffee, our grand oak panelled room for dining. We have a beautiful garden which will come to life when the sun shines and a huge space upstairs for more private events”.
Find Island House at 45-50 Reigate High Street. You can follow them on Instagram here.
Opening on the 31st July on Bell Street, Reigate’s newest café and deli will serve a wide range of great quality food for eat-in or take away.
Flint House is the new venture of local Reigate resident Simon Flint, who has previously worked at top London restaurants including The Ivy and J. Sheekey.
Dishes will be prepared fresh on site using only the highest quality ingredients from local suppliers including Chalk Hills Bakery and Robert & Edwards Butchers as well as specialist suppliers from Simon’s extensive restaurant contacts including Neil’s Farm cheeses. Fresh coffee from award-winning Dorking-based Chimney Fire Coffee will be served. Selected produce will also be available to purchase from the dedicated in-store deli counter with Simon on hand to offer advice on creating delicious dishes at home.
The venture has been a life-long dream for Simon and he cannot wait to bring his passion for cooking and top quality ingredients to Reigate.
Find Flint House at 13 Bell Street. Their Instagram page can be found here.
New independent fashion boutique Sollo London opened its doors just before lockdown selling curated and hand-picked stylish pieces ranging from clothing and handbags, to jewellery and art.
When lockdown restrictions eased, Sollo revealed its newest addition, The Barn at Sollo, a tranquil outdoor dining space tucked away behind the boutique, serving coffee supplied by Chimney Fire Coffee, tea and fresh cakes. Sollo is hiring the space out for birthdays, office functions, yoga classes and also collaborating with other local business such as The Vineking Tasting Rooms for special events.
Find Sollo London and The Barn at Sollo at 53A Reigate High Street, and on Instagram.
Reigate’s premier cosmetic led independent skin clinic is about to embark on an exciting new adventure at a bigger location on Church Street.
Anne-Marie, the owner of AM Aesthetics, explains “we needed to move to new premises to provide more space for offering a wider range of treatments to our patients. Having been tucked away for the past few years in Reigate, its fabulous to be part of a more vibrant part of town and will offer us the opportunity to create a beautiful space for patients to enjoy”.
Find AM Aesthetics at 5A Church Street. For more information head over to their Instagram page.
Multi award-winning haute Indian restaurant Saffron Summer has opened on Church Street after enjoying huge success in its inaugural site in nearby Chessington.
Oberoi Hotels trained Executive Chef Awanish Roy brings together authentic Indian food with a modern twist using local ingredients and his imagination to create a sublime offering. The varied menu reflects seasonal produce changes and includes Indian street food and Indian tapas at lunchtime as well as their special Indian roast lunch on Sundays.
Find Saffron Summer at 15 Church Street, or click here for more information.
Opening on the Church Street site formerly occupied by Partners for Print, the Post Office makes a welcome return to Reigate High Street in August.
As we emerge from lockdown into a closer-knit neighbourhood, one where we have a renewed appreciation for local living, where we know neighbours and shop owners by name, where we care for the vulnerable and shop and socialise locally, it is these factors which put our high street in the best placed position to thrive both socially and economically for years to come.
Are you thinking of launching a new business? Get in touch with our team to help with your brand identity, website and strategy.