Henley's independent Business spirit, Henley-in-Arden
PUBLISHED: 23:26 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:43 28 February 2013
It has a long and venerable history but the town of Henley-in-Arden is also one of the most vibrant towns in the county where independent businesses thrive. We meet some of the business people putting Henley on the map.
The residents of Henley-in-Arden are justifiably proud of their small historic town. The active Henley Society is bent on preserving its character and charm, while the mile long Tudor High Street is listed as a conservation area with more than 150 buildings of special historic and architectural interest. Each November the timber-framed Guild Hall plays host to the meeting of the ancient Court Leet, a relic of Henleys feudal past, once concerned with the administration of justice in the Manor but now tasked with maintaining some of its buildings and Riverside Gardens and acting as guardian of its history and traditions.
But while tradition is observed, this once sleepy town is slowly working to reinvent itself with a steady trickle of young and stylish businesses taking root.
Studio 34 and Caf 34
Business partners, Tracey Kay and Rachel Lewis, opened chic lifestyle boutique Studio 34 offering a mix of fashion, gifts and home accessories two years ago, with its next door sister business, Caf 34, modelled on a classic Parisian caf, following last October.
Weve always liked Henley and the people here and whole village environment but its also something a bit different.
Why combine a lifestyle boutique with a caf?
We thought it would be nice to have the French patisserie with a theme of girly lunches and afternoon tea and cupcakes to complement the boutique. We try and give the caf a fashion feel so that its more than just having tea and cake and a bit of
What are your plans for the future?
We are about to open Maison 34, an interior design show home. Our main focus will be furniture, but we can also put together soft furnishings and everything the customer needs.
The Bluebell Pub and Restaurant
Husband and wife team, Duncan and Leigh Taylor took over the 12th century timber-framed pub five years ago and refurbished it with stylish and opulent decor, while retaining many of the original features and character.
How would you describe Henley?
Its starting to become this amazing little place and getting more towards London with its quirkiness. Its spent so long in the dark ages with its shops that have been here for years and no one wanted to move with the times, but now its moving upwards and we are establishing ourselves as a new and up-and-coming area.
What are the towns best features?
The location of Henley is second to none; it has beautiful architecture, fabulous places to eat and a great High Street. It thrives on its independents and the bespoke element of it.
Why did you choose Henley for your business?
In Henley we saw an opportunity to establish a more unique venue. We were the first people to come and try and move things forward and get a bit sexy and bring a bit of vibrancy.
What is Henley lacking?
It still needs some more boutiques offering something you cant find elsewhere, like a fabulous shoe shop or mens shop and I think that will put it on the map.
Torquil Pottery Shop and The Gallery Upstairs
The workshop and gallery of the late artist and potter, Reg Moon has occupied its place on the High Street since the 1960s. The business has been continued by his widow Maggie, with artist daughter Carey taking Regs place at the potters wheel in the workshop to the rear of the 500-year-old family home. The Gallery Upstairs hosts two exhibitions a year of paintings and pottery by local and internationally-renowned artists, with sculptures exhibited in the garden.
How have you found business in Henley?
Its been pretty good for us. People look forward to the two exhibitions we hold each year in the gallery and they attract a lot of visitors to the town. The shop can be quiet during the week but we dont mind because then we can get on with the pottery.
Has the town changed much over the years?
There are a lot more restaurants now that bring people in, which is good and it seems to be quite chic these days, with the likes of Honeys Lingerie boutique and younger businesses. We still get a lot of ramblers and its a nice place for people to visit.
What do you appreciate most about Henley?
Theres a lot of history. We have to write the history of this house at some point because it has lots of stories to tell; it has been a coffin makers, a weavers, and was the HQ of the Home Guard during World War II and was also one of the original burgage plots.
So-U , fashion, hair and beauty
So-U was an established business in the town that was taken over from the former proprietor last year by Roy Perrin and extensively refurbished. With a fashion boutique to the front, hairdressers to the rear and beauty salon upstairs, it offers a one-stop-shop for ladies. The shop is managed by Roys daughter-in-law, Rachel Perrin.
We live here and its a nice up-and-coming area with good bars and restaurants, so saw it as a good opportunity.
How has business been?
The hairdressers and beautician were already established with their existing client base and weve found business to be really good with some good regular local customers and word is spreading
What do you like most about Henley?
It used to be just ramblers who came here but things are changing. We now have a lot of regulars who want to nip into town, get a coffee and get something nice to wear.
R.S. Mills Butchers and Delicatessen
Three members of the Mills family have run the butchers on the High Street, supplying the townsfolk with meat for over 20 years. Current incumbent Rob Mills took over the business from his brother five years ago, who in turn inherited it from their father.
How is business?
We get good support from the locals and have regular loyal customers that use us every week but we also get custom from the surrounding areas and even from as far as Birmingham. I try and offer as much as I can with a good range of specialist and free range meats that are a lot better quality than what you would get in the supermarket.
What do you like most about working in Henley?
The clientele I know very well and with some of them they are more like friends. I know a lot of the people who own businesses in Henley and will chat to them and see how things are going.