An independent shop that sells artisan products made in Huddersfield has outgrown its premises and is expanding – less than 12 months after opening.
Handmade in Huddersfield was opened in the Imperial Arcade by Ant Gotts on October 26 last year.
His business has grown beyond even his own expectations and he’s about to move – and take on not one but two members of staff.
Ant isn’t going far, however. He’s moving into the biggest shop in the arcade, a one-time Chinese restaurant that has been derelict for several years.
But that’s only half the story as Ant has some amazing plans to put his shop at the heart of the community.
“It’s been unbelievable and it’s certainly not what I expected when I came from the markets doing two days a week and just hoping to cover my costs and make some money for fuel,” said Ant.
“I was told over and over again that people in Huddersfield wouldn’t understand the value in something made locally but they definitely have done.”
Ant, 40, sells a variety of handmade items from artwork to pottery, leather goods to candles and books to woollen blankets. His own range of jam jar floristry has also gone down a storm with his customers.
Ant’s first shop above, and new shop below
Ant now has 45 artists, makers and crafters earning money through the shop and he’s simply outgrown the premises.
“The new shop is six times bigger but it just wasn’t affordable with the current takings,” said Ant. “However, the landlord has agreed a quite novel way for me to pay my way.”
That “novel” deal has meant Ant making a large room inside the shop available for community use.
“This room is almost the size of my current shop,” said Ant. “And it will be used as a crafting and workshop area.
“We’ll have a needle and thread group – similar to ‘knit and natter’ but not just knitting – a men’s mental health crafting session and also a gardening group.”
Ant is an award-winning garden designer and he will teach gardening to homeless people, the long-term unemployed and others who want to learn the skills from scratch.
The other groups will be run by volunteers. Some workshops will be paid-for but many sessions will be free.
As part of the deal Ant will also run a monthly craft fair in the arcade – which has the benefit of being undercover – and will also take on the arcade’s social media on Facebook and Instagram.
The gardening group will take over the flowerbed outside the shop and grow plants from seed.
The flowerbed has had trees growing in it and attracted the wrong kind of attention. It was regularly used as a toilet and drug needles have been found. The trees had also grown so big that they were causing damage to the listed arcade structure.
The trees have now been removed with the long-term aim of restoring the flowerbed and turning it into a community garden where people can sit and eat.
There could even be a sunflower growing competition for children next summer.
Ant plans to open his new shop in around three weeks but there’s a lot of work to be done inside.
Ant’s expansion plans meant taking on staff for the first time. He intended to employ one person and had 58 applications.
“I was shocked by the numbers and quality of the applicants and any one of the top 20 would have been brilliant,” he said.
“I narrowed it down to six and then a final two but I couldn’t split them as they both have skills that will grow the business – so I’m employing them both.”
Florist Ruth and professional upholsterer Sam both start next week and once they are able to run the shop, Ant will get cracking on the decorating at the new place.
Customers needn’t worry about a new florist coming in. Ant’s £5 jam jar flowers – and a refundable 50p for bringing back the jar – will continue.
“The shop has been so well received and I hear people say every day that this is just the kind of shop Huddersfield needs,” said Ant.
“Many people say it’s the first time they’ve been into Huddersfield for a while but that’s a positive, at least they are coming back.
“We needed a bigger shop and having the craft area means we can afford to move. It wasn’t in our plans to move but this was too good an opportunity to miss.”