Lesley Andrews is the latest business owner to benefit from a grant designed to boost town centres across the Borough, which has been used to refurbish a new candle shop in St Annes.
The ARG Vacant Premises Grant available via Fylde Council enables businesses locating to, or expanding into, vacant town centre premises to apply to receive 50 per cent of the set-up, shop fit, refit or branding costs at a value of up to £10,000.
Under her ‘Orchard Candles’ brand, Lesley has been making and selling organic, vegan candles online for three and a half years, alongside her job as a senior sister in intensive care at Manchester Foundations Hospital. Having retired from healthcare, Lesley is now entirely committed to her hand-made candles.
She explains: “I had always lived in Altrincham, but we moved to St Annes when I retired. I was looking out for a physical shop and workspace for Orchard Candles, and finding one on Orchard Road seemed like a good sign!
“I began to set up the shop and then my partner heard about the grant and we decided to apply; the team at the Council couldn’t have been more helpful – it’s been wonderful. I’ve been able to use the fund to completely refurb the shop’s flooring, lighting and shelving etc.
“Our hand-made candles are labelled organic and vegan-friendly and it’s important that people can trust their provenance, so it’s ideal that my workshop space is in the back of the shop and people can see me work.
“I had always planned to retire in November 2020, but I hadn’t planned for my last months on the job to be the hardest of my 38-year career!
“The first wave of COVID was like trying to deal with a tsunami. It was truly awful. Thankfully, by the time I left a lot more was known about treatment and the atmosphere felt much calmer.
“Focussing on my candles doesn’t even seem like work by comparison. I’m absolutely loving every day spent in the shop and excited about the future of the brand.
“I’ve already got 20 stockists across the UK and I’m looking forward to my first ‘candle season’ in the shop. I’ve always been busy with online orders from September to Christmas so it will be interesting to see how that’s affected by also having the new high street HQ too!”
Growing the Orchard Candles brand is not the only thing that Lesley is looking forward to this year; having had her wedding cancelled twice during the pandemic, she will finally tie the knot with partner Lee in September.
Fylde Council Leader, Councillor Karen Buckley was pleased to officially offer her congratulations on the growth of the business: “I’m delighted that the ARG grant played a part in helping establish another quality, independent shop in St Annes.
“It’s a great example of what the support is there for; helping give a hardworking online businessperson the opportunity to have a physical presence on the high street too.
“I absolutely love the shop and will be a regular visitor – I wish Lesley and Orchard Candles every success.”
Funding from the ARG Vacant Premises Grant is still available and businesses that meet the following key criteria can apply until 31 December 2021:
- Moving or expanding into a vacant premise in the town centre
- Offering an in-person service that would generate footfall
- Is a small independent sole trader/operator or locally based chain
- Premises must be in specific locations and include ground floor shop frontage
Applications will also be assessed on whether the business operates in a priority sector for the local economy which includes retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism and whether it fills a gap in the market to attract people to the town centres throughout the week.
The grant would also support costs from operating in a Covid-secure manner such as one-way systems, plastic screens, procurement of PPE and hygiene provisions, or employment of additional staff to manage Covid-secure measures.
Full terms and conditions and details about how to apply can be found at: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/ARGvacantpremises
For more information on Covid-19 support grants visit: https://new.fylde.gov.uk/covid-business-guidance/
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