The Chester blog

Our favourite independents (part one)

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1.Rolys Fudge The popular fudge emporium arrived on Watergate street in April 2011 and has been delighting tourists and residents alike since then. Owner Gina Riley followed in the footsteps of her parents who founded the fudge empire in the late 1980s. She had so much success in Chester that she recently opened another branch in Keswick. Roly’s fudge, all made on the premises comes in a range of flavours from the standard vanilla and chocolate to my favourite Lemon meringue (with actual pieces of meringue). Offering the theatre of food production as the fudge is produced and rolled out in front of you and the sweet smell welcomes you into the shop. Roly’s addictive offerings are a guaranteed mood booster in “these troubled times” @Shitchester

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2.The Second Floor at the far end of Northgate street was set up in spring 2018 by two traders from the much missed Becnicks Emporium. Carrie Elizabeth Hyndman and Kimberley Anderson, known respectively for their Junkbox and The Grunge Monkey fashion and lifestyle brands offer a mix of clothing, homeware and cool gifting ideas. Tucked away above Minerva Lodge Tattoo Parlour and often overlooked by Cestrians, there is always something new to discover here from CDS by local artists , pocket money toys to the great range of quirky greetings cards. The shop also offers a great vantage point of Chester’s iconic Fountains Roundabout. @Shitchester

3.Jaunty Goat (Northgate) I’m not vegan, but I am an oat milk coffee addict, so I was happy to tag along with some plant-based eaters when the place first opened. Fast forward to now, and I’m missing my coffee fix. Swedish-decor cafes and hipster baristas often aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, but I think the Goat serves up the best coffee in Chester (and I’ve tried a lot). The menu is good, too: they do a cracking side of seasoned chips and a hefty doorstop not-chicken and not-bacon sandwich. : Rhian Waller

4.Artichoke I’ve lived on the east side of Chester ever since I moved here twenty years ago, so I’ve walked out of town along the canal hundreds of times. I saw many businesses come and go in the space at the bottom of the Steam Mill, and when Artichoke opened up there, I imagined it would open and close like the many others before it. Almost ten years later, Artichoke has become an integral part of Chester life. For me, it’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a local, a late night haunt that serves the very best beer. For my kids, it’s the place that serves their favourite pizza. For the Sunday afternoon crowd, it’s the best roast dinner in Chester. All things to all men, under black beams and above a polished wooden floor. White curvy chairs right out of a Clockwork Orange. Staffed by some of the funniest, kindest people you’ll ever meet. Living through a pandemic has meant that the team have had to improvise, and now they’ve set up a small off licence – Gnome And Away – at the side of the bar, a beautiful little nook filled with more great beer and wine. Cycling past and grabbing a bottle of wine on my way home from work on Friday evening is a new pleasure, and soon to be a favourite weekly tradition : Matthias Weaver

Artichoke in Lego

5. A business that has been a life line to me and often overlook is Royal Lodge Dog Boarding . They are a Chester based family with a genuine love of all animals (Even opened up their own pet shop during these crazy times) They are fully licenced, fully insured and cater for all our furry friend’s needs, whether it be dietary or medication administration. They offer luxury rooms for our pups to sleep in, large secure garden, and also offer updates how your dog is settling in via messaging or even face time, and overall treat your dog like part of their own family.  They also offer day-care and dog walks and a pick up service on the doggy bus. They also go unnoticed and with out a fanfare run several charitable everts throughout the year Adele Thornley

6. Marmalade :This is like saying you like one of your children better than the others… Chester Bid has lots of truly awesome indies and, if I have any say, we will have lots more in future but today I’m going to pick an indie that isn’t actually in the Bid (too small) but is definitely a friend to it – Marmalade. Yes, my stomach got hold of my brain there. For me Marmalade is a place that has its heart in the right place. The homemade cakes are luxurious and generous and apparently gluten free – although I only twigged that once I was well hooked. The bacon cobs are well buttered and chock full of luscious back bacon, the coffee is rich and reviving and the vibe is jolly and bustle-y (if that is a word). The owner Dawn is a fully paid up member of the “lets make Chester great” brigade. I often come into town early to have a walk around the walls or down the towpath and when that is done, I like to head to Marmalade and weather permitting sit outside at their little table and watch the businesses opposite open up. And breathe…. Katrina Kerr

7. I have just recently received lovely scented candles from Cocoa Flower Florists on George Street . They are really good quality candles locally sourced and smell lovely. Would seriously recommend them as Christmas presents. At the start of the Summer I also received lovely bedding plants which were delivered to my door. They were lovely and lasted the summer season. I would really recommend calling in to see Clare and Pete for all your floral needs, gifts and more. Liz Clutton

8.One of my favourite independent businesses in Chester is Suzie K @ the Secret Garden, located on bridge street row. Suzie took over the building about a year ago and has absolutely transformed the space! This shop is more than just a shop. It’s a spiritual retreat. A colourful store packed to the brim with quirky and unique items, enough to please any magical or alternative soul. There’s also a secret garden in the back where you can enjoy a coffee and a cake! Before Covid hit the shop was bustling with various events such as spiritual open circles and meditation groups, and hopefully that will all pick up again as soon as safely possible. The shop is such a positive place, and Suzie and her team always welcome you with a smile! There’s something different there every time you visit. @Mhara_ Starling

9.Hanky Panky Pancakes: During the first lockdown, I became quite ill with (suspected, no tests were available) coronavirus. At the same time, my job spread beyond the 9-to-5 as we adapted to working from home. Weekends became like any other day (boring and rubbish). To mark Saturday out as different, we started ordering in Hanky Panky Pancakes. Often delivered by the restaurant owners themselves, the pancakes are an indulgent, tasty and filling. They were the perfect start to a Saturday – because when else would you have ice cream for breakfast? It was also lovely to see owner Rekha’s smile as she carried the treats to our door. We will keep up this tradition through Lockdown2. Rhian Waller

10. Meltdown Every time I post on Instagram that I’m there I get countless comments “but you can make them at home” yes.. but 1. Who can be bothered making pasta just for a toastie? 2. Who wouldn’t want to speak to Laura & Rob and 3. Kitty!!! Katherine Beckett

They make cheese toasties that will variously put lead in your pencil, a spring in your step AND the cat amongst the pigeons, but there’s so much more. It’s a small space – just 4 or 5 tables – that’s completely welcoming and utterly without pretension. Laura, who runs the place, greets everyone like an old friend and there are times when it feels like everyone in there is part of the same conversation: people finish their food, wave goodbye and leave, new people arrive and pull up a chair and the conversation goes on. Or you can sit in the corner and read your book, that’s cool too. I call in once a fortnight without fail, lest the cravings become all consuming. Matthias Weaver

11. Within the Northgate Rows is nestled The Scented Garden Retreat, in 25years of trading owner Laura Heywood  has grown her dream into the amazing business. Laura & her team of qualified staff exude professionalism, giving the most amazing treatments, which especially in these times are pertinent for mind, body & soul. Ensuring that the experience doesn’t end at the end if the treatment, there is a whole array of products to suit which allows the experience to continue at home. The Rows hold many mysteries & surprises, at The Scented Garden they hold a magic of their own, taking away your troubles if only for a short time Susan Whitall

The Scented Garden is my favourite local business. Providing therapeutic treatments and a wide range of products , in a relaxing and calming environment. Laura – the owner is so wonderfully welcoming and has built the business from scratch over the last 25 years. My family and I have been visiting her for the last 2 decades and over that time her expertly chosen and handpicked offer of both therapy treatments and related quality products have evolved to gold standard. She, and all her caring and empathetic therapists go above and beyond for each customer, and have continued to do so whilst being affected by the restrictions over the last year. Laura and her expert team are always on hand guide you through their range of products and services without a hard sell. Nothing is too much trouble It really is a must to visit this relaxing haven on Northgate row! Ruth Delap

12. The Interiors Shop opened in Westminster Park in 2018. Bucking the online trend the business “feels strongly that there is an important place for physical shops and have invested time and money in designing a retail and cafe space” that will appeal to customers. The Shop has also offered a range of workshops in the past. Sharon Owen is a big fan : ” Jewel in Westminster Park crown, I had interior design advice that made a make over very successful and cost effective. Great quality paint and fabulous range of accessories and gifts. Ros and team deserve every support!

Pic; Lee Louise.

13. Lee Louise have been trading at 70 Foregate street for over 40 years mixing with , and outlasting some of the big chains on the street. The TARDIS like shop occupies a historic building which dates from 1570. Their motto is “selling beautiful things to beautiful people” Writes one fan : “I call Lee Louise a gem of a shop in Chester. I wold describe the shop as quirky and unique. Over time I have purchased many gifts for both myself , family and friends and I especially love the Santoro London range. I find the staff welcoming and friendly when browsing, especially when I need assistance with the jewellery. It truly is an asset to the city!”

14.Just Footprints: Just Footprints (in the Forum) is run and staffed by dedicated, friendly people who get to know their regulars. There’s a (mis)conception that eco-friendly living is a middle-class aspirational thing. Aside from cutting down on plastic, I’ve probably saved money by coming to this shop as you can order exactly what you need in dry goods and no more, which saves wastage, and you can get a literal gallon of shampoo for a few quid. I really hope they stay open. Rhian Waller

15.Chester Beer and Wine: Pippa & I had to Shield during LD1 so no trips anywhere, everything had to come to us & as much as I love wine I know S about it. So a few weeks in decided wanted to treat Pippa but need someone advise so that the surprise was a case of wine she hated! I called Chester Beer & Wine in Handbridge, I explained my total lack of knowledge was only matched by my desire to buy a Rose that Pippa could sip & enjoy in the sun! They asked me to explain what I wanted & why & once they untangled my jumbled up incoherent, but enthusiastic ramblings, they sent the perfect case same day which they left on our doorstep as requested. For me shopping from Independents is always a joy, a unique opportunity to tap into a persons passion & pride, to learn & return time & time again! Rufus Carter

16. Small Eco Steps are a local business who aim to make it easy for families to make more eco friendly choices. From organic cotton clothing to sustainably sourced wooden toys, reusable baby wipes to fair trade chocolate. With free local delivery on most products, flexible payment plans and an ever growing range of products they’re a super choice for Chester families who want to make greener choices. They stock clothing from leading organic brands Frugi, Toby Tiger, Kite Clothing and Duns of Sweden; fair trade toys made by Le Toy Van, Haba, Goki and Fabelab; fair trade Tony’s Chocolonely and allergen safe PlayInChoc, as well as a huge range of home learning resources and books. Small Eco Steps was founded by Vicars Cross Mum Anna Bennett, who is as passionate about helping the community as she is about helping families go green. Their friendly Facebook group is filled with help and advice, as well as competitions and fun. @shellg17190

17. The perfect stopping point for a coffee on the way to the river – or even as a destination in its own right – Obscure Coffee on Lower Bridge Street has been on the Chester coffee scene for 2 years now, and what a welcome addition it’s been. It’s owners Nick and Maz are the most welcoming, friendly people and I doubt there is anything Nick doesn’t know about his beans. Great coffee with a true depth of flavour, great cakes, décor, atmosphere and dog friendly to boot. A true gem of an independent – one that holds a firm place in many a Cestrian heart – with very good reason! Annabel Entress

18. George Orwell once wrote an essay on why you shouldn’t work in a second hand bookshop. I once worked for one in Southport where for all the twee touches a coal fire, books tied up in brown paper and string it could not disguise the fact that the owner was a pompous prig. I very much doubt the proprietor of Bookingham Palace could be accused of that, he seems a laid back dude who leaves his stall in Chester Market to nip outside for a fag. it is kind of damming that in a city which would like to be known for its culture this is the only second hand book emporium in Chester. I picked up one of the excellent Matthew Scudder novels by Lawrence Block for a quid post lockdown. Write On!! David Sheekey

19. Who comes to my house when I’m feeling down? That Beer Place! Who rings at my door with a cheery sound? That Beer Place! Who supplies my happy nectar in three shades of brown? That Beer Place! Who caters for dogs and people with a frown (struggling here)? That Beer Place! What should go on forever and ever (unlike this poem) That Beer Place. Which place should win because it sells beer? That Beer Place. I rest my case. (And my beer mat.). Anonymous

20. Chester Health opened way back in 2014 and previous winner of a prestigious “Best Health Store” and is housed in a building that dates back to 1660. Says Andy Bell: “Chester Health is a wonderful independent business, Niki and Nina are absolutely amazing at trying to help people with everyday health issues, the shop always has new products in and the most important thing is they always have time to care make your day feel special.”

Bridge street row

Thanks to all contributors!

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