On the last weekend of May, thousands of local people celebrated the all-important first year milestone at the Shed, Bordon.
By appearance more aircraft hangar than shed, this modern take on a shopping centre brings together an enticing combination of shopping, entertainment and hospitality.
The Shed is a great experiment in town-centre regeneration, relying on trade generated by local independent businesses with no traditional anchor business to guarantee footfall.
So how did The Shed and its local traders fare in the first year?
As we saunter gaily into our second trading year, there’s a great mix of businesses in The Shed.
Opening hours vary but generally there is a great atmosphere and brisk trade from midday onwards each day into the evening.
Work begins this September to transform the unfinished mezzanine space into self-contained offices, meeting rooms and an executive lounge under the management of SiGNAL.
The occupied ground-floor units are largely given over to street food takeaways with a decent bar specialising in local craft beer, and The Cube theatre in partnership with the local Phoenix Theatre – with the core emphasis firmly on food, drink and entertainment and a scattering of independent retailers.
The Studio Art Gallery is not so much closing as relocating at some point in the future. In its place a locally-run business Headcase Barbers has been confirmed to open this month, and will provide a key service destination for the town.
For the retail outlets, trade started off well but were affected – with the rest of the UK – as a result of the new Covid restrictions in the autumn.
Early 2022 was very slow, in line with retail trade across the UK, as constant news of rising prices and energy bill hikes made the going a little tough still.
For the food and drink traders, the year has been consistently good, especially for those able to offer home-delivery food services.
From a consumer perspective, there is an increasingly wide variety of food and drink available, with recent additions Shack and Pizzeria Campana proving very popular.
Stuff’d has recently revamped its offering with welcome new partnerships including local pie creator Mud Pies and coffee and baked goods from Acorns Coffee and Cakes.
The community events are of consistently high quality and well attended and the atmosphere is lively, especially on the warmer days when the shutters are up and the sun streams in from the town park.
The Cube events have been well chosen with a focus on up-and-coming and local performers and interests, giving The Shed a really strong local community flavour and a unique atmosphere.
The outdoor markets are key to the success of The Shed and have been hugely helpful in delivering footfall and creating interest.
Markets run on Wednesday and alternate Saturday mornings and are a great way to pick up fresh local produce and experience a wider range of local retail than you can find in The Shed.
The Shed offers a lot to local families in the way of entertainment and hospitality – but perhaps even more importantly it is a great source of employment and opportunity.
From the traders taking their first market stall or permanent bricks-and-mortar site, to those local school leavers taking their first jobs in the restaurants and bars, The Shed team and its businesses protect the best interests of all who work there, fostering a can-do enterprise culture and work ethic that will carry the town onwards and upwards through the next stage of development.
So we all celebrated the first birthday of The Shed with a general feeling of settled optimism for the future.
The Shed’s party was a fabulous testament to the success of the first year, with record footfall, excellent trade for all and a great festival atmosphere.
Congratulations to everyone involved for delivering a first-class event!
The Shed is an inspirational hub for local enterprise, providing a strong and characterful focus and identity for residents at the heart of the new town development.
I would not be at all surprised if the model is emulated up and down the country as communities seek new ways to congregate, eat and drink in key central spaces in their towns.
Planning has now been granted for the next phase of town-centre construction including the mess hall and the High Street shopping parade, so we are looking forward to many more opportunities for local businesses to shape the future centre of Whitehill and Bordon.
Do get in touch at [email protected] if you have a small business you feel would bring something to the party! It’s a great place to be. Visit www.theshedwb.com to take a look at all the traders open at The Shed.