Just off Northgate street, Rufus Court is an attractive courtyard which houses numerous independent retailers. As one long running business changes hands we spoke to some of the traders about the Rufus Court life.
Graham Turner (centre) is the owner of Tri-Active and has been become part of the furniture on Rufus Court, having founded the business 11 years ago. He is now passing the business onto a new owner and he hopes that the positive vibes and new traders will continue to boost the profile of the Court. Says Turner “we have Rich Vincent, founder of Skegness Tri club taking over the reins . He’s an Iron Man athlete and coach with a passion for Triathlon and running and he’s taking over in July . We’ve seen many people come and go but we have been happy to have been here as part of the community. ” The departing Graham thanks all of his customers and members of staff as well as his hard working mother Mandy and former business partner Gavin Bannister.
“We have a reputation for sorting people out with appropriate running shoes via a video gait assessment. We basically provide a counselling service for anyone who comes in! jokes Graham. “The future of the courtyard looks positive, we have the bus station and the theatre. Would like to see some better signage and more support from the BID- smaller businesses need more backing. Rufus Court could well be the jewel in the crown in Chesters independent retail scene. We have Covino Chris ( see https://thechesterblog.com/2017/01/10/covino/) , he’s new, we have Matthew O Brien expanding his Empire ( the fashion designer hosted a successful fashion show at the Cathedral and has doubled the size of his premises) Jamie Northrop at Alexanders having sell out gigs, the Off the Waffle chain, Gustum (https://thechesterblog.com/2017/04/09/gustum-chester/)– he’s experienced in hospitality and a new florist/gift shop replacing the closed down Pemberleys.. Also we have Tea on the Walls doing well”
Next door neighbour Alexander’s are also doing well under the new leadership of Jamie Northrop who took over in late 2015. “It’s really nice to see that the courtyard hasn’t got any empty spaces now. Everybody is getting along well and we are seeing more visitors over the weekend. Most Saturday nights have sold out for us, comedy nights have been doing really well. We are trying to keep everything varied, nothing to complain about at the minute!” Alexander’s are also part of the “Talking walls” project and searching out the plaque on the wall will reveal a recorded message about the venue and some of the many famous acts that have played there over the years.
Tim Irvine of Stigma Tattoo echoes the positive viewpoint. “We’ve been here 7 years. At the moment there is more occupancy than I’ve seen in the 7 years. There seems to be a lower turnover of shops. I think footfall has always been ok, but we try and make ourselves a destination, a reason for people to come to the courtyard and not reply on footfall alone.”
The newest arrival on the courtyard is Elizabeth Louise Bridal owned by sisters Hollie and Hannah. Says Hannah: ” With just a 15 month age gap between us (Hollie 24 and myself, Hannah, 23), we grew up in Newton, Chester with our mum, dad and older brother. Hollie and I took very different paths when leaving school. Hollie progressed in the world of bridal and I, into university life.
“When I finished my studies it was time to look for jobs, which I was dreading. With Hollie married and on maternity leave with her little boy (now 2 years old), we got talking about how amazing it would be to have our ownbri dal business. ‘Two Sisters’ taking Chester by storm. So, we decided to put our heads together to create a business which we both loved.
“After all the boring stuff i.e. business plan, finance, paperwork, it was time to search for some premises. Our brother Stuart, who has worked in Rufus Court for a number of years, mentioned there was a shop available in the courtyard. With the vision we had for the boutique, Rufus Court was just perfect – quaint, friendly, independent and very homely. The rest just fell into place. It took us 3 months to renovate the shop but we certainly enjoyed every moment of it. We are lucky enough to have a close knit, loving and supportive family and if it weren’t for them we would still be setting up now, 18 months later!”
Upstairs is the popular Covino, with artisan’s friend Chris Laidler establishing the business as one of the leading trendy wine bars since opening in late 2016.”I thought it was going to be a baptism of fire ,with something a bit more premium than what was on offer, offering some more left field stuff. Rufus Court perfectly set the tone for the kind of business that I am, a young start up offering something a little bit different. It’s fantastic, more cities should have little areas, in a low risk environment, but still in the mix.. ” Chris is pleased with the improved planting and hanging baskets which were in a sorry state when we spoke in January, but his Box plant has been attacked by Blight and will be on its way back to B&Q. Chris is also pleased to announce that artisan cola will soon be on the menu after a long campaign from this account holder.
Rufus Court 1 City Walls, Chester CH1 2JG