The pop-up shops preventing a village from becoming 'dead' zone

Artisan makers are helping a tiny village keep its community alive

The pop-up shops preventing a village from becoming 'dead' zone | Artisan makers are helping a tiny village keep its community alive
The pop-up shops preventing a village from becoming 'dead' zone | Artisan makers are helping a tiny village keep its community alive
The pop-up shops preventing a village from becoming 'dead' zone | Artisan makers are helping a tiny village keep its community alive

Curious shoppers are flocking to the tiny village of Burnham Deepdale, on the north Norfolk coast, to visit the artisans taking over pop-up shops in Dalegate Market.

Now in its second year, the season launched last week and will run until the end of October.

Four new independent businesses, selling everything from beer to buttons, will take over the shops each week to encourage both local consumers and tourists to visit the area, bringing much-needed revenue to the village’s permanent shops and nearby tourist destinations.

Polly Warnes, founder of Polly’s Feltz, took over one space last week, selling her handmade range of felt bags.

“I knit the material for felting while I’m in the shop,” she says. “When people see how much effort goes into them, and talk to me about the process, they fall in love with the products.”

The bags start at £42, and each one takes three days to make. “During a good week at a pop-up, I can sell 10 bags,” says Warnes, who usually offers her wares for sale at craft fares and via her online shop.

“The great thing about having an actual shop is that I don’t have to take everything down at the end of the day – the way you do with a stall. And I only live 12 miles away in Fakenham, so it’s easy for me to get to the shop.”

Alison Priestley, founder of Ruff & Tumble, makes towelling dog coats that can dry a wet pet in half an hour. As the owner of four dogs, she came up with the idea after struggling to keep her soggy pets off the furniture.

“They love going into the sea and I was permanently trying to dry them,” she says.

Priestley ran three pop-ups in 2014 at Dalegate Market and will operate two more this year. “Lots of people are on holiday with their dogs so they buy our coats to protect their hotel room or caravan or holiday home from wet, smelly dogs,” she says. “Being this close to the sea is perfect.”

During a week in a Dalegate pop-up, sales will rise as much as 100pc, she says, and the pop-up also drives online sales in the following weeks. “People tell their friends or the coats are spotted on dogs, and that is fantastic.”

Jason Borthwick, 43, a fourth-generation farmer on neighbouring Deepdale Farm, introduced retail innovations to the village in 2000 to help diversify away from arable farming.

“When I started helping my dad on the farm, 99pc of our revenues came from traditional farming. Now it’s more like 50pc,” he says.

The pop-up beach huts in Dalegate Market have been built on the site of an old garage and workshop. “My dad had sold the garage on because we didn’t want to be running a petrol forecourt,” he explains.

“But when the owner decided to sell up, we saw an opportunity to buy the land back.”

Housing developers were planning to turn the land into executive homes for City workers seeking a country pad. “This place is known as Chelsea-on-Sea,” says Borthwick. “We need more second homes like a hole in the head.”

The village of Burnham Deepdale is home to just 30 residents year-round, but the population rises to 200 once the second-home-owners arrive during holidays.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a shop where locals could buy bread and milk, and we introduced a campsite and backpackers’ hostel to attract tourists,” says Borthwick, who is intent on building an entrepreneurial ecosystem where all businesses create more revenue for their neighbours.

The local supermarket, Keshco’s, is a family business operated through the Nisa franchise, which allows the shop to sell competitively-priced staples alongside produce from the local area.

“We wouldn’t let a pop-up come in that would take revenue from the supermarket,” says Borthwick. “But if, say, there was an artisan chocolate maker, that’s a different proposition from ordinary confectionery and we’d love that.”

Over the summer, the village will play host to a range of “retail theatre” companies, Borthwick says. “There will be chainsaw carvers coming later in the year and makers that run workshops – Black Cat Buttons recently did one on making your own button box.”

The annual Christmas market, which has been running for seven years, has been a resounding success for Burnham Deepdale, attracting visitors from all over the country to its 100-plus stalls.

Borthwick hopes that the summer pop-ups will help to bring in revenue during the rest of the year.

“People are already coming back each week to find out what’s new,” he says. “You walk down a high street and it’s all the same shops. By inviting these small artisans and independent retailers, we’re giving people something different.”

The shops are not run for profit – the spaces cost between £50 and £150 for the week, depending on the time of year. “It’s about giving this place exposure,” says Borthwick. “We don’t want to become just another dead village.”

Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor - The Telegraph