Meet the high street heroes of Brighouse
PUBLISHED: 13:34 18 November 2011 | UPDATED: 16:20 08 September 2017
Brighouse is forging a reputation as a superb destination for shoppers, just don't expect the big high stores. Paul Mackenzie reports Photographs by JOHN COCKS
Brighouse is famous the world over for its band but it’s a group of another kind who have struck all the right notes to lead the town through the economic downturn. And these local heroes have plenty to blow their own trumpet about after proving that thinking locally can not only help their town survive the ravages of the recession but actually boost business.
The town centre has been ranked in the UK’s top five for positive changes since last year – new businesses have moved in and the town’s reputation as a shopping destination has improved.
Lesley Adams, owner of Simply Flowers on Commercial Street, is a leading light in the town’s business initiative and the Totally Locally scheme which aims to support local traders. She said: ‘We try to give shoppers a choice – we accept that it would be very difficult to live entirely without supermarkets these days but we want to remind people that there are alternatives as well.
‘There is such a huge range of different shops in Brighouse which offer personal service and are very good at what they do.’
And Lesley, who has had her shop in the town for 17 years, is also involved in organising the three market days a year – the next will be held on Saturday November 26th – and a new event for next year. ‘We’re organising a week long arts festival to be held around the town next August with music, dance, poetry, everything.
‘The market is a bit of an event which showcases the town and what the town can offer. The great thing about the market is that you meet some fantastic people and you can have a natter and get to know the people and their products.
‘We get a lot of people coming in from outside the town and takings in the car parks have been up by a third the week after the market, so people do seem to want what Brighouse can offer and hopefully a week long event will have a similar impact.’
Totally Locally is a social enterprise formed in Calderdale as the recession began, with the aim of supporting small shops and the idea has really taken off, with towns joining in across West Yorkshire and further afield.
The scheme now holds annual awards and while Lesley was honoured as a Total Local hero, another shop on Commercial Street took the favourite shop prize at this year’s ceremony.
Czerwiks opened its doors 25 years ago as a cheese shop but now stocks a dizzying selection of fine wines, beers and whiskies.
Manager John Murphy said: ‘Winning the Totally Locally award was a tremendous honour. There’s an awful lot of fabulous products made in this area and we are very proud to sell them. Micro-breweries in particular are booming at the moment and they are producing some stunning ales
‘We’re always on the look-out for new products. We try not to sell what the supermarkets sell and we look for quality rather than price. We often find that what we are selling will end up being sold a few months later in the supermarkets. It’s nice that we’re ahead of the game but we can’t compete with big stores like that on price so we spend a lot of time at food shows and we are constantly finding new things.’
John holds regular wine tastings and the shop and its website are both being revamped in time for the Christmas rush. ‘We pride ourselves on customer service and it will be hard for us to put that across online,’ John added. ‘We’re starting with the malts, liqueurs and hampers and we’ll take it from there. We’re making some changes to the shop, too, moving the beers to the cellar and the whiskies to the back where we aim to create a sort of gentleman’s club atmosphere with a couple of chairs.’
They have plenty of chairs down the road at Websters Furniture, the family-run store which has been trading in Brighouse since 1865.
And Jill Blackburn, the manager there, is in no doubt that thinking locally has helped Brighouse. She has worked for the business for more than 20 years and has seen plenty of changes around the town in that time.
‘The town has grown,’ she said. ‘There are not as many empty shops as there were and not many big high street names, we have more small individual shops and small companies.
There has been a definite improvement over the years.
‘The people and the traders in Brighouse have made quite a bit of an effort to support local businesses and that has really helped.’
But despite the emphasis on local business, Brighouse also has a national and international trade. Business is anything but brisk at the Sagar boatyard near Brighouse basin on the Calder and Hebble Navigation – at peak capacity they can build just two boats a year.
‘Each barge we build takes 11 months from start to finish,’ said Andrew Sagar who runs the company with his brother Jonathan. ‘We mainly build Dutch barges for the continental market. It’s not a business where you can go into mass production, it’s a specialist market building one off boats for individuals.’
The business was formed in the early 1970s by Andrew and Jonathan’s father Stephen, who is now retired and spends time in France aboard his own boat. The Dutch barges the brothers build are up to 60 feet long and com with everything a bricks and mortar house has – shower, toilets, full electrics, air conditioning, satellite equipment – along with the price tag: £200,000.
‘In the main our customers are retired with a lump sum pension or are approaching retirement age and want to take a boat to France or Belgium,’ Andrew added. ‘Some of our customers are from Yorkshire but we sell to people from all over the country.’
Getting there: Brighouse stands in Calderdale close to junction 25 on the M62. The railway station is a short walk from the town centre, with regular services to Halifax, Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield. If you have a sat nav, typing in HD6 1AF should take you to the town centre.
Where to park: There are reasonably priced pay and display car parks around the town and some on-street parking is available too.
What to do: Explore the shops around the town centre and enjoy some of the terrific walks around the town, including the Calderdale Way. And if the band are playing, book your ticket early.