By Hastings Trader
After a hard winter and a terrible Easter the seafront shops are at last able to look forward to some bright sunshine. Despite setbacks of weather, increasing parking charges and ever higher rents and rates, traders in the Old Town and along the seafront are doing their best to keep the area alive and vibrant. It is a tough job as the ever increasing number of empty shops creeping down the High Street testify.
The Old Town has been the centre for artists, good cuisine, antique, collector, food, clothing and book shops for over 100 years. Countless people earn livings (or try their best to) in an area that is one of the town’s greatest attractions.
It has traditionally been an area of low rent properties, both for living accommodation and business, ideal for students, non-established artists and anyone with the urge to start up on their own. This has changed dramatically over recent years. The high price of property has led to massive rent and lease prices, council and business taxes have soared to a point where a good proportion of proprietors are working many hours a week for very little or no return, in some cases for a loss. Imagine what that must be like, tied into a lease and losing money.
Let us not dwell on these things for the moment, perhaps the wise councillors will come up with an idea before next winter that will assist the small traders in their hour of need. Let us look instead to the months ahead and enjoy the colour, bustle and atmosphere of this amazing place that is the favourite of so many who return year after year.
For colour take a look at Cabbage’ on the junction of the west end of George Street and Sturdee Place. The selection of colourful characters penetrates even the darkest of sunglasses. Characters ranging from Betty Boop to a very realistic cow that would have to be transported on a roof rack.
Stroll through George Street and High Street and support the cheerful band of traders. It is a collectors paradise where anything is available from a model car to a Georgian chest on chest. At lunch time there is an endless selection of restaurants, traditional pubs and eating houses to satisfy all tastes.
For the connoisseur there are art shops and galleries and for the ladies countless unique elegant fashion boutiques beckon. Jewellery outlets range from dress to much more serious stuff. Gold prices are rising by the day, city gents are moving into precious metals and their prices will soon be soaring, might be a good time to buy that special person an expensive trinket.
Don’t forget the service specialists. The Old Town is famed for its cobbler, tattooist and many hairdressers, a quick haircut while waiting for the good lady sorting out her spring fashion wardrobe can be time well spent.
Back out on the seafront and the children are having a great time. There is laughter and screaming from the funfair rides and the satisfying crash of coins from the modern ‘one arm bandits’ announces that the holiday makers and good times are back again.
The Prime Minister might be preaching gloom and doom but perhaps it won’t be as bad as he proclaims. The Old Town has seen tougher times and with the Euro rising against the pound and air travel becoming substantially more expensive it could bring the people of Britain back to their traditional holiday spots. It will also encourage continental trade with fares on the ferry low and good value for euros on the exchange rate.
I do like to be beside the seaside with bracing air and plenty to do. Hastings has a lot to offer, even with the unpredictable weather, there are good inside attractions.
So traders of the Old Town, brace yourselves for the season ahead, holiday makers will flock to the town and enjoy themselves so much they will spend, spend, spend.
The chink of silver in the tills will be as loud as in olden times and, when the winter comes, those fine councillors in the Town Hall will halve the rates on business premises and banish parking charges. By this time next year pigs might fly and we shall all be miljonares.
A young woman of the 1960’s enjoying the sun on Hastings Beach. Will the crowds be here in the same numbers as in those great days?
“Rye’s Own” May 2008
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