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‘It’s not all going to be rosy’ - Shops in former bowling alley site on coming out of lockdown

PUBLISHED: 11:35 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:22 10 June 2020

Richard Marks, Paul Walia and Lee Choules each run shops in the former bowling alley site on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Daniel Hickey/Courtesy of Lee Choules.

Richard Marks, Paul Walia and Lee Choules each run shops in the former bowling alley site on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Daniel Hickey/Courtesy of Lee Choules.

Archant

“It’s the fire that keeps on taking.”

The Regent Road, Great Yarmouth: Picture: Moss PishbinThe Regent Road, Great Yarmouth: Picture: Moss Pishbin

Richard Marks, 62, who runs a woodcraft shop in Great Yarmouth, is referring to the huge blaze that destroyed the former indoor market and bowling alley on Regent Road almost four years ago at the height of the summer season.

While the site has since been rebuilt - and this time last year traders moved back into the units - the fire itself, and the physical and financial devastation it left behind, is still causing problems for some of the site’s tenants as they try to grapple with the consequences of the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Marks, 62, who runs Woodcraft Gifts, received his self-employment grant on May 26 - the amount, however, was not as much as he would have hoped.

“The HMRC count the last three years of your accounts, and you get 80pc of those, but the first year of the three years was the year we had the fire, so they counted that loss against us,” he said.

Richard Marks of Woodcraft Gifts is moving back to Regent Road. Picture: Joseph NortonRichard Marks of Woodcraft Gifts is moving back to Regent Road. Picture: Joseph Norton

Like most other businesses the shop - which is “98pc dependent on the tourist trade” - closed in late March and they don’t do much online.

“Our shop is ready to open, we’re just waiting for June 15, but no hotels will yet be open, so all we can do is survive on day trippers.”

Paul Walia, 65, who runs T-Shirt King, is more stoic about the effects of the fire.

He said his self-employment grant was also affected. “But what can we do about that. At least we got something,” he said.

Paul Walia, 64, runs T-Shirt King on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth. Shops on the site have been reopening after it was destroyed by fire over two years ago. Picture: Daniel Hickey.Paul Walia, 64, runs T-Shirt King on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth. Shops on the site have been reopening after it was destroyed by fire over two years ago. Picture: Daniel Hickey.

While the shop is closed he has been selling T-shirts online, mostly to customers in the UK, Germany, Norway and Sweden.

“It’s saved my bacon the last few months,” he said.

He has sold T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘Eat, Sleep, Isolate’ and 200 NHS-themed garments, donating 20pc of the profits to charity.

Mr Salia will not open next Monday, though.

The centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. 
While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: staffThe centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: staff

“I think I will open the following week,” he said. “I was down on Saturday to put up the screens and found it depressing there, everything was closed, no people walking about, but I am looking forward to coming back.”

While the Regent Road site was being rebuilt Mr Salia ran his business from Victoria Arcade.

“We moved back to the shop this time last year, and it was so good from the start, I thought it was back to the way it was, and then this happened.

“I took more in three months on Regent Road than I took in a year in the arcade,” he said.

Lee Choules, 49, runs Just Kids, a shop on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Courtesy of Lee Choules.Lee Choules, 49, runs Just Kids, a shop on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Courtesy of Lee Choules.

“But if we lose those three months, July, August and September, then we’re finished, because it’s too long to survive until next April.”

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Lee Choules, 49, opened Just Kids, selling children’s clothes and toys, on March 8 - but had to close only thirteen days later.

“We poured loads of money into it, so we can’t close, it wouldn’t make sense to close the business,” he said.

Because the shop only opened in March Mr Choules was not eligible for the self-employment grant.

He said he also nearly did not receive the government grant of £10,000.

He has been ordering stock but deliveries have been difficult with the shop being closed.

A delivery that was due on March 23 never arrived. “I have no idea where it is now,” he said.

A lot of merchandise is out of stock, because most things come from China, and deliveries are taking much longer.

He is planning to open on June 15.

“It’s not going to be all rosy after June 15, a lot of people are not going to come to Yarmouth this year, we’re going to have to rely on local trade.

“There are a lot of ifs and buts to contend with.

“You are hoping you can get by until next year with local trade but you don’t know people’s circumstances, do they have any money?”


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