Norwich named one of the best cities in UK for independent businesses
- Credit: Archant
The Fine City has proved itself a place where dreams really do come true, courtesy of its thriving independent business sector.
Norwich has been named as one of the best cities to launch an indie according to Bionic's business index for 2021.
Despite a pandemic, many bosses took the plunge last year and saw success against all the odds.
Laura Budds, a former teacher, fulfilled her life-long dream of selling vintage furniture full-time when she permanently set up shop on St Augustines Street last year with Norfolk Retro.
She said: "People are really happy to see this area regenerating and improving.
"Everyone comments on how nice it is to have that just out-of-town shopping experience and not having to go into the bustle of the city.
"It's a community, especially in NR3. We're always shouting each other out and supporting each other - it helps build a real community feel."
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The sentiment was echoed by Norwich newbie Anne Schröer of Döner Bei Tante Anne, who launched her vegan kebab brand in Wensum Street in 2021.
The founder said: "It's so lovely. When Covid hit again in December and everyone was isolating or saving for Christmas - even then people would come in.
"Everyone was so nice, whether regulars or those coming for the first time. I still can't really believe it, and it means so much."
Tom and Toto's Sarah Wright said a supportive community made establishing her doggy day care centre that little bit easier.
She said: "We always like to support other independent businesses especially where our new centre is at White House Farm in Sprowston.
"There's a little hub of businesses here. We all support each other."
And it's not just the new kids on the block that agree that Norwich is a great place for independents to call home.
Mike Read is the part-owner of Mike, Debs and Sons greengrocers which has been at Norwich Market since 1968.
He said: "Years ago this market was all fruit with the old flower stall, one or two tea stalls and nothing else. Now, it's a multicultural food and all sorts.
"Over the last two years especially we've seen it change.
"It's more people friendly. During lockdown people walked through as part of their daily exercise as they had nowhere to go, and we started to deliver. It's been eye-opening.
For those wishing to start out in Norwich, he added: "There's nowhere better."
Elm, which is now in Lower Goat Lane, was established in 2017.
Director Paige Mitchell said: "This road has been amazing. When we arrived here business sort of exploded as this is the road that goes into the heart of the city.
"Since we've been open again after Covid, we've definitely noticed the growth. We're on track.
"Loads of stuff has opened in Norwich in the last few years which is good. We all try and be a bit of a community."
Proud to be a part of Norwich's indie scene, she added: "For me it's being small and paying our staff well - we're a living wage employer now - and we're all about making sure everyone is happy. We all love Norwich."
Chris Smith established Christophe's Crêpes ten years ago in a van and moved into a more permanent home in Pottergate at the dawn of the pandemic.
"It was proper scary but we managed to get through it! We've got a loyal following which has helped," he said.
"Norwich lanes is where it's at. I knew when I wanted a shop that I wanted it here.
"It's a community - people come in here form other shops and we go to them, it feels like we're really supporting each other.
"I'm glad I opened here. It was my plan ever since we started ten years ago, that was the dream.
"The van in between the market and the castle is still there, but we've grown to be here."