Trade Secrets of Alfreton & Somercotes, Derbyshire
PUBLISHED: 10:38 23 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:04 20 February 2013
Ashley Franklin visits some of the businesses making Alfreton and Somercotes a destination of choice for discerning shoppers
If you are a discerning Derbyshire shopper who likes to seek out independent, individual and specialist stores, I would unhesitatingly point you and your purse towards Derbys Cathedral Quarter, Chesterfield and Ashbourne. I would also recommend certain quarters of Buxton, Bakewell, Matlock and Belper. I can now add another Derbyshire destination to the list, which may surprise you: Alfreton.
Granted there are no quaint arcades and hidden entrances and it perhaps lacks some of the attractiveness of its fellow market towns but Alfreton and neighbouring Somercotes can happily provide you with classy furniture and accessories, bespoke kitchens and bathrooms, quality awnings and blinds, special beauty treatments, beautiful lingerie, select menswear and country clothing, choice carpets, fine jewellery and, even more individually, innovative, high quality walking boots and safety wear, and tailor-made, traditionally crafted stained glass.
What I discovered was a retail culture comprising many industrious family-run businesses priding themselves on cherished traditional values like personal service and customer loyalty. In adidition there has been a refreshing influx of new retail outlets in Alfreton in recent years, including: Etienne, suppliers of quality awnings and blinds; Elliott Carpets, offering high quality, affordable flooring; and Ye Olde Sweet Shop where confection like Rainbow Crystals offer a sweet spectrum of tastes.
These and other new units have sprung up, in no small part, due to the towns position, an aspect that encouraged the formation just over a year ago of Alfreton Business Club, which aims to regenerate the town.
Its a two-pronged promotion, as Business Club member Paul Brown of estate agents Richard Savidge explains: Alfreton is very central and accessible, being right next to the A38 dual carriageway and only minutes away from the M1. On the other hand, we are also anxious to bring more shoppers in from the immediate area. Many locals shop here and support the home-grown trades but there are still people who go to Derby or Nottingham and forget what is on their doorstep.
A recent arrival on Alfretons doorstep was a Tesco store. According to Paul, this has been detrimental to some retailers but benefited others, as it has brought a regular influx of visitors who also venture into the heart of Alfreton.
The busy flow-through of A61 traffic on King Street helps, too. Ross King of Elliott Carpets says the shop is perfectly positioned for drivers sitting in the traffic lights nearby, so their window notices are writ suitably large!
Curiosity Interiors has a quaint, three-storey frontage to its 18th century building which also catches the eye of passers-by. As owner Gill Allsop recounted: We get a lot of customers who drive by in their daily commute and are intrigued. I realised then how appropriate our name is! The curious will be rewarded with an extensive, exclusive range of carefully sourced furniture, upholstery and accessories including bags, jewellery, fabrics, artwork, giftware, and even clothing.
Next door is a service unique to the region: tailored stained glass. Harlequin, run for 11 years by Paul and Michelle Roberts, provides stained glass panels, mirrors and lighting, all individually crafted. Also on King Street is Nevilles Gun Shop, a leading supplier of guns, ammunition and country clothing, owned by former Olympic shooting champion Joe Neville.
Further up the road is The Bed Shop, one of the largest such stores in the Midlands. Buying the right bed is so important, says co-director Duncan Thorpe. You can spend 2,000 on a holiday that lasts two weeks, so you owe it to yourself to spend as much on something you use for a third of your life.
Buying the best kind of kitchens, bathrooms and house furniture is vital for much the same reason and I was very impressed by the quality of products offered by Pride of Place, run for over 30 years by Gary and Sharon Grainger; Archway Interiors in Somercotes, where manager Allen Philips prides himself on the companys after-sales service Weve looked after our customers so well over 30 years that we are now serving most of our original customers children; Mayfield Furniture, also in Somercotes, another family-run business which is attracting customers from far and wide; and The Kitchen & Bathroom Company with its massive showroom space and a range that includes traditional, contemporary and ultra-modern choices.
If your building be it home or business is looking for bespoke joinery, Gowercroft on the Cotes Park Industrial Estate is a company building a fine reputation, not least for difficult, problem-solving projects like the restoration of Hurst Lodge in Holloway home to the young Florence Nightingale and fitting windows in a castle. Gowercroft was commissioned to install windows in the new apartment development at Riber Castle where the walls are 48 inches thick and the windows needed to withstand 700 pounds of sheer pressure due to the castles high windswept elevation.
For stoneware, Acanthus offer a wide range from urns to pools, birdbaths to balustrades, and even temples and pavilions and there was a further discovery in amongst the four industrial estates straddling Alfreton and Somercotes: Rock Fall UK, the UKs leading manufacturer of professional safety footwear and workwear. Gone are the days of ugly steel-capped work boots; over 25 years, Rock Falls founder Stephen Noon has progressively designed safety footwear that is both durable and fashionable. There are even work shoes specially made for women. Rock Fall is also the first company to apply nanotex to its industrial clothing. Before my eyes, Procurement Manager Debbie Slack spilled liquid on a pair of Rock Fall work trousers to see it immediately run off in a shower of globules.
For fashionable clothing, theres a hallmark of quality in Sanders, an Alfreton menswear store with an especially fine line in smart jackets. For women, Saffron in Somercotes is well-geared for the discerning, fashion-conscious, 35-plus woman with a speciality in occasion wear; while next door is the century-old Tarltons which sells stylish shoes for the casual wearer through to the wedding-goer. The shop is run with a warm, welcoming smile by Elsie Tarlton, who has served for over 50 years, and her daughter Julia.
Also celebrating 50 years is David Nieper which is renowned for its lingerie its often referred to as the Janet Reger of Derbyshire though its 200-strong workforce also produces acomprehensive range of nightwear, knitwear, loungewear and separates, selling to a quarter of a million women all over Europe.
If a days shopping wears you down, you can pamper yourself at Senses Skin Care Centre in Alfreton or Elite Hair & Beauty in Somercotes. If you fancy a dip in the blue, the superbly-refurbished Alfreton Leisure Centre has one of the newest and finest swimming pools in the Midlands. The centres extensive, state-of-the-art facilities attract over 35,000 visitors a month, more than satisfying the centres mission statement: more people, more active, more often.
Maybe thats a mantra the Alfreton Business Club could adopt as it seeks to bring in more shops and more shoppers. We really hope to make a difference promoting Alfreton, says club secretary Alison Rayner. I would love to see more quality, independent stores opening here, like a delicatessen or a few more gift shops. We wish to see a monthly farmers market as well. This is, after all, a market town and an historic one, too. The more we can offer, the greater the expectation; and if we can set that ball rolling, I feel we can put Alfreton on the map of Derbyshire destination towns.