UNITED in the fight to save their town centre, the traders of the once thriving Felling High Street are reminding shoppers that they are still open for business.
Within the last week one young businesswoman has gone with her gut instinct and set up her first venture.
Meanwhile another shop is being renovated and will be ready to open in the new year.
Developers said last night three more were under offer.
Traders are pulling together to keep the historic High Street, which dates from the 1800s, open for business.
Last week we reported that the once bustling street had been left with just a handful of stores. Since the closure of supermarket Kwik Save two years ago, shutters and boarded up buildings have become commonplace.
But those that remain are determined not to give up and are now appealing to regeneration bosses at Gateshead Council to help them survive.
Last night chartered surveyor Dylan Lindsay, of Bradley Hall, said he had three units under offer in the High Street.
He said: “The units are absolutely all under offer at the moment – they will all be occupied at some stage in the new year.
“Felling High Street is one of those places where losing Kwik Save, an anchor tenant, had a hugely detrimental effect for the area. It stopped the flow of people.
“It’s the same in Spennymoor when Kwik Save went there.
“But from a property portfolio point of view it provides an investment opportunity. If you let these units at a few grand a year, then you will make a decent return.
“The more businesses that open will draw more business to the area.
“It’s the local authority that should be trying to do more to make it more attractive and keep the place tidy.”
Teenager Ebony Eckstein received a grant from The Prince’s Trust to set up her first business just days ago. The Felling-born 19-year-old opened gift shop Partibox last week and admitted it was an exciting time when she rang through her first sale.
She follows in the footsteps of her mother Carol, who opened a women’s clothes shop a couple of doors away.
“It’s just a shame, people aren’t giving it a chance,” she said.
“There have been a couple of shops that have opened, but they closed because they were not getting the trade.
“The Prince’s Trust has helped me. I always liked doing things with my hands and being creative, so that’s why I opened.
“I hope to take on some staff in the future and become bigger with more stock, so if other people open up shops, then that would be great for Felling.
Gateshead Council last night repeated its commitment to get Felling High Street back on track.
A spokesman said: “We are continuing to look for a developer to work with.
“Obviously the current economic situation makes this a challenging time and developers are naturally nervous about the future.
“We are however very hopeful that in the not-too-distant future we will see Felling town centre seeing an upturn in its fortunes and the residents getting a centre that meets their needs.”
The units … will all be occupied at some stage in the new year