Lockdown craze helps local independents flourish in Middlesbrough

New and re-discovered hobbies, which helped people cope under lockdown, continue to flourish and have a new home in Middlesbrough.

One national retailer has reported a staggering rise in activities such as macrame, crochet and sewing. There is a worldwide shortage of wax due to home candle-making and in County Durham there is even a TV channel dedicated to crafting.

In recognition of this renewed interest, the Dundas Indoor Market has created a crafting corner.  One shop – The Crafty Patch – opened just prior to the pandemic but the surge in interest has already seen it move into larger and more prominent premises, allowing it to showcase 26 local hobbyists.  Crafty Patch’s reputation has grown so rapidly that crafters from other parts of the UK are queueing up to have the shop stock their work.

“It’s a bit like a craft fair – all different crafters – but in one place,” said the owner John Dixon.

John Dixon - owner of The Crafty Patch

John Dixon – owner of The Crafty Patch

Opposite Crafty Patch is The Crafty Sisters – a shop shared by siblings Sue Denny and June Jones. On one side is Ellenswood Pyrography, where Sue sells a wide range of bespoke wooden items featuring designs, names and words which she burns into the surface. “There are so many different names out there now, it’s a chance to create something really personal,” she said. Sue’s husband Maurice makes bigger pieces, such as children’s chairs and cots.

In her half of the shop June sells children’s clothes she has made for her business, which is called Stich and Sew. A third sister supplies her with items she has knitted at her home in Scotland.

Both Sue and June started out with stalls at the Monthly Food and Craft Market which has been held in Dundas for more than six years and, it is hoped, will return later in 2021.

Their success there encouraged them to take on small units in the indoor market. Despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Sue gave up her job and in September the sisters opened a bigger shop.

“Crafting’s helped an awful lot of people to keep occupied as well as filling some time.  Towards the end of lockdown I started to struggle.  Without my craft it would have been a different story,” said Sue.

“I don’t regret it for one minute.  People are so nice and they seem to appreciate the personal touch.  It gives you a boost and makes you realise it’s really worth doing.”

She added: “You’ve got to make your shop attractive.  You’ve got 10 seconds to attract somebody’s attention as they’re walking past.”

That was the focus in lockdown for Nicole Bean, whose business – Alta Ego – completes the crafting corner in the market.

When not personal shopping and delivering for her customers, Nicole was busy transforming the look of her shop which sells crystals, incense, textiles, handmade jewellery and a vast array of gifts.

Nicole, a graduate from the Northern School of Art, started her business in 2005 and moved to the market nearly four years ago.

“Since coming her I haven’t fancied moving out,” she said. “That’s why we’ve done the building work – to make it more permanent, because I’m really settled here.

“All of the traders support each other. We’re like a little family or old-fashioned neighbours in a street who are always in and out of each other’s houses.”

David Harris, the Dundas Market Centre Manager, said: “I’m sure there are many people like Sue Denny who had time during lockdown to think about their futures and decided on a change of direction.

“One of the benefits of being here is that new independent traders can test the water – as Sue and her sister did – without over-committing, and we offer a scheme which really helps new businesses as they start out.”

He added: “We would like to hear from local people who are considering starting a new business, relocating an existing one and who complements our collection of businesses already here. In particular we would welcome interest from a baker, florist, barber or greengrocer.”

For more information about the market visit its website www.dundasshoppingcentre.co.uk/dundas-market