Monday, May 27, 2024

Stevenage Indoor Market traders to move to new shops

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Portside Soap Company and Cake & Sweet Magic are both in the process of moving into new units at 24 and 26 Market Place, with opening set for May 11.

Ryan, who runs Portside Soap Company, told the Comet that he “can’t wait” for the big day.

“It’s exciting! We’re bringing out loads of new product ranges, we’re bringing out parties for children, adults and everyone in between, and we’re going to be doing workshops during hours and after hours.”

He started his business in 2017, handcrafting bath bombs and soaps while on strike from his previous job with an airline.

It quickly led to him setting up stalls at markets such as Hitchin Craft & Farmers Market, and the realisation “that customers were following us and we were getting bigger and more orders”.

A pop up at the Indoor Market became a stall – which “went from one stall, to two stalls, to four stalls, and now to a shop”.

Ryan had been looking for a shop for around 18 months, “waiting for the right moment to come … it just felt right this time”.

He believes his business is the only similar one in Stevenage – and possibly in North Herts – to make all of their products themselves, on site.

“We don’t buy a single bath bomb in. Everything we make – down to the packaging, the label, the design – is all done by us in store. From start to finish, it’s our minds and our designs.”

On the day we speak, Ryan is making sponge soaps while his sister Gemma, who works for the business, is making car fresheners.

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And, Ryan adds, “you’re shopping within the factory” – and it smells delightful as a result. Customers are able to ask questions about how the products are made, and at the workshops can get involved themselves in making their own custom products with their own choice of moulds, scents and colours.

Ryan closed his stall for the final time on April 27, and will be moving into the shop – which is around double the size of his four-stall set-up in the market – on May 11.

We also spoke to Vickie, who runs Sweet Magic, while her daughter, Demi, runs Cake Magic.

Vickie explained that her daughter had started baking cakes for friends and family around ten years ago.

With orders coming in thick and fast, she began a stall in the market but would be “up until 1am or 2am baking” because the market didn’t have facilities for baking the cakes.

Vickie continued: “The market management were brilliant and agreed for us to put a kitchen in, and it just all went from there.”

She said that the market had provided a “really good start”, but because it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays it was challenging to get orders ready for those days.

They began looking for new premises a few years ago, and when the unit in Market Place became available, they thought it was “perfect”.

Vickie, meanwhile, took over the market’s sweet stall in February 2020 – just before Covid hit.

Initially a side job, she was soon able to give up her work at an estate agency to take on the stall full-time – taking over from her “brilliant” predecessor and continuing a market tradition that has now been going on for fifty years.

And, while she says that leaving the market will be a “bit of a wrench” having been on the traders’ association and maintaining a “very good” relationship with the management team, now Vickie is looking forward to opening in the new shop.

She adds that the management team “were really god about it” and “really sorry to see us go”.

All she needs to do now is put the finishing touches to the new shop, and both Cake & Sweet Magic and Portside will be good to go.

Vickie concludes: “It’s really lovely that we’re going to open and launch at the same time. Hopefully, it should go hand in hand!”

Portside Soap Company will be open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9am to 5pm, with the hope of opening on Sundays too from this summer.

Sweet and Cake Magic will be open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9am to 5pm, and on Sundays from 10am to 2pm.

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