Arcade Transformation Is Catalyst For Creative Start-ups

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Ellen Crabtree (wearing jacket) and Polly Langham outside their units in Paragon Arcade. Picture by Charlotte Ridley

The transformation of a Victorian arcade has tempted two natives of Hull to take their first steps in business in their home city.

Polly Langham worked at TONI&GUY salons in locations including Hull, London and Sydney before deciding to strike out on her own with Milk. pure hairdressing.

Ellen Crabtree still works as a barmaid to supplement her work making babywear and has made the move from online selling to bricks and mortar by opening Belle and Benjamin.

The catalyst for both was the availability of units in Paragon Arcade, Hull, which is now close to full occupancy after a major overhaul by owners Allenby Commercial.

Polly said: “I live in Hull with my husband and daughter and was commuting to London when I worked there. But I love Hull. I love that it’s a big city with a local feel and Paragon Arcade exemplifies that. And it’s not expensive!”

Ellen said: “I have always been fond of the Hull scene and when a space became available here I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

Allenby Commercial bought Paragon Arcade, which was built in 1891 by Sir Alfred Gelder, in autumn 2017 and has maintained a Victorian look and feel during a refurbishment programme which has improved ground floor units and brought neglected first floor space back into use.

Existing tenants selling items and services including fresh blooms from Flower Corner, Treat Box traditional sweets, Segal’s antique jewellery, P J Hutchinson Barbers and Silver Springs vintage clothing have been joined by Two Gingers Coffee House, Marla’s Deli, White Rabbit Chocolatiers and 80 Days Bier Markt.

The businesses pool resources and expertise to present “After Hours”, an eat, drink and shop collaboration on the first Saturday of every month which was part of the appeal for the new arrivals. They also appear on the Paragon Arcade website www.paragonarcade.co.uk

Ellen, who gained a knitwear and design degree at the University of Northumbria before returning to Hull and launching Belle and Benjamin from home, said: “With it being an arcade you get a real sense of community and it’s exciting to be a part of that.

“I’d considered opening a shop for a while and as soon as I saw the sign in the window I decided to have it. The space is really cute and I knew it would be a great fit for me.”

The online business will continue and Ellen plans to use her new space to bring in lines from other businesses targeting the baby market.

She said: “I’m concentrating on knitted things and jersey-based clothes including leggings, jumpers and personalised tops and tees but I’m also taking a brand of teething accessories from another independent producer and I’m looking at other ideas including toymakers.”

After Polly returned from her international travels she worked at Air salon in Hull and Bleach in London and was also involved in fashion shows, music videos and editorial projects before deciding to set up her own salon.

She said: “I’ll have a receptionist working part-time while she finishes her NVQ in hairdressing and I’ll be renting chairs to other hair stylists. We’ll offer specialist colouring services but the main aim is to provide straightforward hairdressing.

“The big attraction is the location. There isn’t a better one in the area. I love the look of Paragon Arcade, the other businesses are a real draw as well and I want to keep it intimate and exclusive and make the most of where we are.”

Georgia Allenby, Design and Marketing Manager at Allenby Commercial, said: “As soon as we acquired Paragon Arcade we embarked on a programme of improvements including a major renovation scheme and seven-days-a-week opening. We’re only halfway through the renovation and the space is nearly full.

“As a local company ourselves we are committed to adding to the appeal of Hull city centre, supporting businesses from the city, encouraging people from Hull to live and work here and people from outside to visit here. Paragon Arcade is only a stone’s throw from Hull transport interchange and the various shopping centres and that location makes it super-accessible for shoppers.

“It’s fantastic that Polly and Ellen – two people who could have taken their business ideas anywhere – have decided to stay in Hull and add to the richness of our city centre because they can see the potential for success from being part of the creative offering at Paragon Arcade.”