Page 22 - MarketTimesOctober2019
P. 22

 Whitstable’s new-look Harbour
Market is making a splash
THE picturesque seaside town of Whitstable, famous for its oyster festival, now has an additional attraction — the new-look Harbour Market.
Technically the market has been going for more than 18 years with an eclectic mix of artists, jewellers, craft stalls and more traditional market lines.
But it was closed down three years ago for six months to allow essential repairs to the crumbling harbour wall to take place.
That was when two old friends, Jo Vogelaar and Steve Randall, who met when they studied jewellery making together in Rochester, hatched a plan to put in their own tender to run the market.
Jo, who is Dutch by birth but moved to Kent as a child, said: “Canterbury City Council was putting the market out to tender and we had the idea that we would like it to be more of an artists’ and makers’ market.”
Before then, the crafty, arty traders selling their artwork and handmade products were trading alongside traditional traders, some selling imported goods which the makers could not match price-wise.
The council was impressed by Jo and Steve’s proposals. They won
the seven-year tender and that’s when the hard work and anxiety really began.
The business partners were faced with creating a market from scratch. “All there was was a concrete harbour side. It was very daunting,” Jo said.
But the stunning location and the numbers of visitors from London and beyond who flock to this beautiful seaside town on the north coast of Kent were a big incentive for the pair — they knew that if they got it right, success was guaranteed.
And the new-look market has been such a success that word is spreading far and wide, with the council regularly getting enquiries from other local authorities wondering if a similar market would work in their town.
Jo said: “We approached a local company that made beach huts and invested in 34 beach-hut style cabins that are perfect for our traders.”
The length of their contract enabled them to invest in quality, and Jo said they were on target to repay their loans within the first three years, so the future is looking profitable.
“Our aim was to create a different market for artists and makers so we are very strict on criteria.
The vast majority of traders sell
Jo Vogelaar
only what they make themselves and the rule is that the minority who don’t can only buy in up to 20 per cent of what they sell.
Rent is kept low at £3,000 a year for permanent traders. And Jo and Steve operate six huts as pop-up units in order to help new artists and crafters test the water with their products and artwork.
Jo, who sells her own beautiful pearl jewellery, said: “We understand how difficult and daunting it is for creative people to take the first steps.”
Jo herself had a couple of shops before giving up to look after her family, so she was grateful to re-establish her business on Whitstable’s harbour market when she had more time to devote to it.
“Permanent traders have to open at least five days a week in the summer holidays, although they can open seven days a week,” Jo said.
“The market is incredibly busy in the summer season, but it is really weather dependent, and if there is a north-east wind, don’t even think about it,” she said.
Whitstable is a hugely popular seaside town with lots of eateries, a great community feel, lots of small, independent shops, picture- postcard fishermen’s cottages and a busy fishing industry including the famous oysters.
It gets visitors all year round and the market thrives throughout the year apart, of course, when that wind blows.
     Whitstable is a tourist magnet, and the working harbour a place for holidaymakers to relax

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