Home Kent News Margate Old Town: The thriving independent businesses in Kent’s ‘most beautiful town’

Margate Old Town: The thriving independent businesses in Kent’s ‘most beautiful town’

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Original article from Kent Live

There are many great sights to see in Margate.

Visitors are greeted by the big wheel at Dreamland which greets trains as they pull into the station, before they head to the beautiful seafront, meaning there's something for all to enjoy.

However, one of the best things to do is to take a stroll through Old Town.

READ MORE: Bank holiday to bring clear skies and sunshine as summer ends

The area is lined with a whole host of independent businesses which are popular among locals and visitors.

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While the COVID pandemic had a devastating impact on many independent shops, many had to move their businesses entirely online.

Those in Old Town are delighted to see crowds flock to Margate once more.

In fact, Margate has been listed as Kent's most beautiful town according to new research carried out by data specialists at SlotsUp.

We visited the area this week to find out what it's like to own a shop in Old Town.

Here's what they had to say.

Comic shop

Howard Watson, owner

Howard Watson has owned the comic shop in Old Town for around 15 years.

"We're a comic shop that's been around for some time now so we've certainly noticed some changes in the Old Town," he said.

"This summer has been particularly very busy so I'm pretty pleased."

Howard explained that the summer months are "fantastic" for businesses due to the amount of visitors Margate attracts, but added that winter months can be difficult.

"The downside is the winter, it can be a little harsh," he added.

"Taking the rough with the smooth though, I really do enjoy it.

"A lot of our customers are from outside of Margate who come along to visit the area."

Kate and George by the sea

Malcolm Walmsley, 63, and Jacquie Agnew, 55

Malcolm Walmsley, 63, and Jacquie Agnew, 55, are two staff members at the shop and explained how the Old Town has changed since lockdown.

"The hard part was definitely the COVID lockdown," Malcolm said.

"When the Old Town reopened after lockdown we didn't have any of the cafés and bars open so that was a challenge at first.

"Here we do have regular customers but many people are visitors coming to see Margate and spend the day here.

The loss of banks and pubs is one of the biggest changes the pair have noticed about the area.

"It's become quite commercialised rather than a real town for everyday shopping," Jacquie said.

"For the every day people that are living in Margate it is definitely a commercial industry.

"The reopening and regeneration of Dreamland I think has really helped out with the local economy too."

Little Bit

Polly Donger, 38

The quirky shop situated on the corner of Old Town is owned by Polly Donger, 38.

"I've had the shop for four years and we sell gifts, treats and clothing as well as plenty of colourful things," she said.

"I live above the shop and really do love it here. There's a lot of eateries so I do think we could get some more shops here in Old Town."

Polly also noted a few of the big changes she had noticed during her four years staying in Old Town.

"As well as many eateries popping up, there's sadly been lots of empty shops and unfortunately COVID didn't help with that," she added.

"It's a very heavily tourist trade so in those winter months, from about Christmas through to March, it can be very painful.

"During the pandemic we had to move all our stock online but I want my shop to be an experience where people can come in and be changed by the space."

The Margate Bookshop

Francesca Wilkins, 30

Francesca Wilkins, 30, has owned The Margate Bookshop for just over two years now and also serves hot drinks to guests sitting outside.

"It's been a really good two years and I get on really well with the customers," she said.

"I think most people are visiting from outside of Margate and looking to do a bit of shopping, but there are still plenty of locals.

"I think Old Town is just the ideal location really."

Francesca revealed that post-pandemic sales have been very encouraging for book shops up and down the country, and for her it's no different.

"It was challenging to begin with but all book shops across the country has had a big comeback since the pandemic," she added.

"I guess people have been reading more in lockdown and want to continue their hobby.

"It's really encouraging to see the book trade has been doing better than before."

Dekka-Arts

Dolores Sanchez, owner

Dolores Sanchez has owned the arts shop for around two-and-a-half years and has described the location as "wonderful".

"I think Old Town is wonderful and there's a great selection of shops," she said.

"Through the years I've noticed it's getting more trendy and the shops are getting more and more interesting."

Among the positives Dolores highlighted that there were some issues with owning a shop in the area.

"The rent prices are increasing and that's definitely one of the biggest issues in Old Town," she added.

"Having said that, we do have many people coming from all over the country to visit Margate and Old Town so we get a lot of trade in that way.

"The COVID pandemic was challenging for us. We never knew what was happening next and had only just recovered from Brexit, but with the summer months we do get more visitors."

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Original Article