'Royal Arcade needs you': Boss urges firms to rent space

Artisan Chocolates by Saffire

Angela Ruthven, who runs Artisan Chocolates by Saffire. She is pictured without health and safety clothing for the purpose of the photograph. - Credit: Archant

The boss of an independent chocolate shop in Norwich's Royal Arcade is urging other businesses to take up empty units.

Angela Ruthven, who runs Artisan Chocolates by Saffire in the arcade, fears people think the rents are too expensive - but with lockdown easing, said they should consider moving in.

Mrs Ruthven, who relocated her business from Taverham Garden Centre last year, said trade was now picking up in the arcade, particularly at weekends.

As a result, she has just launched new packaging for her handmade chocolate bars celebrating Norwich.

Artisan Chocolates by Saffire

The new wrappers depicting the Norwich skyline. - Credit: Supplied

The new wrappers depict the city skyline, including the Royal Arcade.

"Whether you are a football supporter or not there is a lot to be proud of about Norwich," she said.

"Trade is picking up. It's still a little bit slow during the week - I think the older generation are still a bit anxious and cautious - but it's very busy at weekends.

"I think now is the time for people to consider renting in the Royal Arcade. People have this idea that it's very expensive, more so than Castle Quarter. But it's right in the centre and so beautiful."

Artisan Chocolates by Saffire

A dairy-free bar from Artisan Chocolates by Saffrire, with the new packaging. - Credit: Supplied

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The new chocolate bar wrappers come from a design Mrs Ruthven created. The bars have no added ingredients and she also sells a dairy-free cashew alternative.

Mrs Ruthven had always dreamed of opening in the Royal Arcade, which for years was the home of another independent chocolate shop, Digby's.

Royal Arcade, Norwich

One of empty units in the Royal Arcade - still depicting a Christmas scene when the venue reopened last month. - Credit: Archant

The Royal Arcade is owned by Legal & General and currently has seven empty units.

It includes a large unit once occupied by Jamie's Italian, which has stood empty since the restaurant closed in February, 2019.

Last year, as Covid struck, the owners gave tenants a break from rents from March-July 2020 and the discount appeared to have worked.

New businesses signed up for the arcade including Artisan Chocolates by Saffire as well as Sonkai jewellers, relocating from the Lanes.

Royal Arcade, Norwich

Another empty unit in the Royal Arcade. - Credit: Archant

However, as the pandemic took hold, the remaining available units proved difficult to rent as pop-ups were delayed from taking up space because of lockdown.