Have you spotted the #ourwhitleybay campaign on social media recently? I’d seen a few familiar faces holding the iconic lightbox, or liking, commenting and sharing the posts, but I hadn’t paid a lot of attention. The last time we’d been to the North Tyneside seaside town I hadn’t seen much in entice me back particularly quickly. But then, we ordered a cake…!
I’d seen the works of art created by Pauline from Pure Knead for several months, via their Facebook page. Even though I would normally pass up a slice of cake for a bowl of chips and dips, these cakes looked so enticing, I was increasingly tempted. When our church home group leader happened to organise a bring-and-share lunch on the weekend of our business’ first anniversary, we decided it was a good opportunity to celebrate and treat ourselves, so we got in touch to place our order.
When we went to pick up our orange and pistachio cake in Talbot Jones branded colours from the Whitley Bay premises, I decided to keep my eyes peeled, to see if #ourwhitleybay was really something worth shouting about- it really was!
The PureKnead shop is stylish and charming, full of decadent and beautiful and delicious treats. The cakes and artesan bread are intricately and lovingly made- and all yours, for a very reasonable price.
A couple of units down is the quirky and eclectic Vintage Powder Room and Tea Shop. Treating yourself to Elevenses or Afternoon Tea there is like settling down in your granny’s front room- if your granny happens to be very on-trend, with impressive attention to detail, a lot of class and great baking skills! (Click on the above link to get an idea of what I mean.)
We’d promised the children chocolate cake, so we continued our hunt across the road at a really warm and welcoming café that was bustling and inviting. At 192 Coffee Shop, the children were delighted to be presented with special curly straws, which they were invited to keep. Little touches like that can turn a ‘necessity break’ into a happy and cherished memory.
The variety and quality of independent shops along Park View really piqued my interest, so I decided to take a day off and come back for an explore.
My first stop on the grey Wednesday morning was Olives at the Station, where I enjoyed a delicious Chai Latte and the company of two local businesswomen, Lee Casey and Julie Summers. Their enthusiasm and passion for their home town was infectious and exciting, and it was really encouraging to hear of the developments in Whitley Bay.
With a £36 million regeneration project happening at the seafront, including the restoration of the iconic Spanish City (immortalised in the Dire Straits song), things are looking up for this town. The local businesses look poised to seize this opportunity to make their town stand out.
In September 2015 research revealed that Whitley Bay was the most improved shopping centre in the country, with a 12.5% drop in vacancy rates over the last 5 years. It is now one of the most occupied town centres in the country. That is an achievement to be particulaly proud of in this economic climate, and with the involvement and energy of creative, daring, problem-solving, engaging, enthusiastic residents like Lee, Julie, Paula and the other business owners I met, things look set only to improve.
But, what is already there?! Here are some of the highlights from my 2 hour leisurely stroll through Whitley Bay.
Olives at the Station is ideally situated at the station (believe it or not!) and so makes for a very accessible/fun/romantic meal, as you prefer! I didn’t have the chance to eat there on this visit, but the hundreds of 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook assure me I won’t be disappointed. Full of Victorian charm with a modern twist, I look forward to bringing the family to enjoy dinner, surrounded by bare brick feature walls, log burners, tastefully mismatched furniture, original art, antique leather suitcases and vibrant plants.
My next stop was a few minute’s walk through the centre of town, to the lovely little gift shop Meander. It had been recommended to me by several people, and I enjoyed perusing striking jewellery and beautifully crafted candles and beauty products by made by local company Alkamy. Business owner Sandra was very warm, helpful and friendly.
Next door you will find Ringarosie Yarns. The colours are riotous and the textures are so inviting. If you’re a knitter- or know one- this place is well worth a visit. Granny TJ used to be a regular at this shop when it was at a different location in the NE, and she still remembers the kindness and friendliness of the owner. It was lovely to pop in and see the thriving independent business that is now so firmly established in that community.
Arriving on Park View, my first stop was HaimieDog. I was actually going to pass it by, as it’s a menswear shop, but I’m so pleased I did! The small shop is packed full of lovely casual wear for blokes. I spotted a very fun dinosaur jumper that I thought Richard would love and could definitely carry off. I tentatively looked at the label and was so surprised- I thought they must’ve missed a digit! But, no, I carried home a very quirky and fun jumper for my boss, with change from a tenner! (But, shhh! Don’t tell him!)
In the brand new Elsee Crafts shop I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the artist responsible for designing the creations in the store- except for a few made me her daughter, a fine artist who she is rightly very proud of. With cards, pictures, notebooks and the like with North Eastern or seaside themes, this is a perfect shop for classy souvenirs or gifts for local folk.
The clothes in Escape Boutique are right up my street. The selection is beautiful, stylish and striking and I even managed to nab myself a bargain designer dress reduced by 70% in the sale. I’ll definitely be back the next time I need to add to my wardrobe as the range is so carefully chosen to be comprehensive but not vast. By using an established independent clothes shop I felt I could trust the owner, who is more invested in ensuring repeat custom, rather than just securing a one-off sale in the till.
There were plenty of other shops to enjoy, but I’d chatted so much it was time to sit down for some lunch before heading back to Gateshead to pick up the mini-apprentices. I loved the vibrant and eclectic décor of Pulp Fiction Future Foods, a health food café with a ream of soul-food options I’d never tried before, including lots of delicious smoothies and juices. It’s the perfect place to brighten up on a grey day- check out their photos!
I went home tired but happy, encouraged to talk to so many business owners who have a passion for what they do and where they work. It felt hopeful and exciting, too. If you have any doubt about the value of shopping in independent shops, please click on our 6 reasons to shop local blog and let us try to convince you! You might also find our 6 ways to support small businesses blog of use, too.
The residents of Whitley Bay are working hard to make their town a destination to visit and really enjoy. The great news is- it’s working! This weekend, when you head out to hit the shops, would you consider heading to Whitley Bay, instead of the big shopping centres? You’ll find hand-picked ranges, friendly and accommodating people, products made with passion and purpose. You’ll be regenerating our region, feeding local families and building communities.
#OurWhitleyBay. Let’s enjoy it!
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