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Wood Street wows its visitors
WOOD Street is at the thriving heart of Swindon’s Old Town district.
Traders up and down the thoroughfare are well aware of the vibe that has developed amongst their customers and which continues to draw them in for those extra bites of culture, diversity and quality.
Shoppers, diners and even tourists are now making Wood Street a priority. At a time when high streets are struggling, failing to establish an identity, this part of the town has found its niche, and it’s working.
Wood Street Foodhall, a one-stop shop for meat, fish and groceries opened on August 3, and has added another feather to the street’s cap.
Simon Rhodes, 48, owner of the food hall, said: “It works very well for us down here. “People seem pleased that we are here and we have already developed very good working relationships with the other traders.
“The problem [with high streets declining] is country-wide because they have all been run by the same chains for so long.
“Of course every high street lost its identity, and it’s down to individual shop owners to capitalise on that and be as enterprising as we can be.”
Brunettes, a hair salon, has been open for three years, before which it operated in Victoria Road, a ‘shabby’ location for the business according to owner Pina Griffin, 30.
On the allure of Wood Street, Pina said: “When you go through Wood Street, it just feels different to anywhere else in Old Town.
“It’s like you’ve been transported to another place. “In the evenings especially, it has a very different feel to the rest of Swindon.”
During her routine Friday visit to Wood Street, shopper Sarah Allen, 35, of Stafford Street, said this was a street which had the potential to separate itself from anything beyond its boundaries.
“If you come up here on a Saturday morning there is already a buzz about the place,” she said.
“I would like them to pedestrianise the entire street and cut it off to traffic. “That way, the restaurants and bars in the street could put tables and chairs out and really open it up to a community feel.
“If it were pedestrianised you could have markets on in the street too. It would feel so continental.”
Vicky Turner, 34, the owner of 20 at the Kings, a bar, restaurant and hotel established in Wood Street since the 19th century, backed Sarah’s thoughts on pedestrianising the street.
However, the same could not be said for Alan Saunders, the 49-year-old co-owner at Magnum Wine Shop, which has been in the street since 1987.
Alan felt his customers needed car access, especially for bulky orders at his shop, but floated the idea that the street could be closed to cars after 7pm.
The introduction of the food hall was backed by Alan, who said he has noticed an increase in footfall over recent months.
“This street is ideal for certain types of businesses. Independent retailers are here to offer customers items they can’t normally find in supermarkets,” he said.
“That’s a niche customers tend to like, which is why they come here.”
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