Gordon has been visiting both new and long standing small businesses in the town for this year’s Small Business Saturday.
The Small Business Saturday initiative is now in its sixth year in the UK. It takes place every first Saturday in December to highlight local independent shops and businesses, and to encourage residents to support and keep money in the local economy, in the run up to Christmas and then all year round.
As he started off on a round of calls, Gordon said: “I think Small Business Saturday is a great way of getting people in Blackpool to show their support for shops and businesses in the town. I’ve backed it since day one as a Shadow Minister and also having run and managed a small business myself for 12 years before I became an MP, I know how hard and challenging that can be. At a time when local media and others are all calling for people to back our High Streets shops and locally-based businesses, it is great to show it and support them.”
Gordon’s visits included Toasties – a new sandwich, cake and shakes boutique shop, just a few doors from his Highfield Road office. Only opened in August by Coral Hall – their freshly made food and changing menu is already being a big hit with local people and businesses.
He said: “Toasties has had a lot of success since it opened – and both I and other members of my staff have enjoyed the range of food, both hot and cold. The range of takeaways they prepare on the premises – including colourful desserts and cupcakes – is impressive but also rings the changes. Like any thriving small business as I know the secret is to know what your customers enjoy, but also not afraid to experiment and widen and try new ideas. I think Coral and her Toasties team have started very well and I wish them all the best for 2019.”
Afterwards, he dropped into Ann Barnes’ Florists which has been running as such for 30 years. It’s always been a family firm as Ann (Barnes) took the premises on from her parents, who had previously run it as a fruit and vegetable shop.
Gordon said: “Ann’s Shop has been a well-known fixture on Highfield Road and in the 20 plus years I’ve been her local MP. I have frequently called on her advice and creative skills when buying flowers to send both in Blackpool and further afield. She’s been a mainstay of the community in South Shore – she trained locally learning floristry at the old Palatine College, after a spell in the Civil service at Norcross.
“Ann is strongly supportive of local community initiatives and is great role model for both existing and aspiring small business owners. Her work as a florist means she has to have good personal skills and sensitivity – flowers get bought to send to people at important, often sensitive times – as well as the bespoke decorating skills that have currently turned her shop window into a lovely festive scene for Christmas.”
Gordon went onto Blackpool’s Abingdon Street Market in the town centre, buying both savoury and dessert pies for his Saturday lunch. “I really enjoy going round and buying things in the Market – it’s a piece of the town’s heritage having been originally built in 1862 and used as the first town centre Police Station.
“It’s been a market for 90 years now and it was great to see it restored to its glory in 2012 with funding from Blackpool Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Whether you want a cauliflower, a pork pie, some Lancashire cheese, some tops, a new winter coat, or just a cup of tea and a bun while you rest your feet, you’ll find them all from local traders there.”
Gordon along with Neal Brookes, local resident and one of his constituency officers, then met Pickersgill DIY owner Kevin Boardman, who has known Neal for over 15 years. Kevin joined the Rectory Road based company in 1980 and now runs the business himself with help from other members of his family.
Gordon said: “Pickersgill is another long-standing local business with a great reputation for what they do. There is a lot of competition in the DIY market, especially from other big businesses, but Pickersgill has customers from all across the Fylde Coast. While we were there we saw Kevin and his staff giving DIY tips and material info as they were ordering .Whether it’s people doing their own DIY work or professional traders, Kevin and his team have a really good range of stock and provide excellent personal customer service, which is why 40 years on the business is going as strong as ever.
“All in all Small Business Saturday is a great showcase for successful local businesses, quite a number of whom have been helped to thrive in recent years by Blackpool Council’ s excellent Get Started team – David Slater, Geoff Reeves, Donna Taylor and others – who’ve literally helped 100s of businesses and people to get going in the town.”