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Harold Hill independent businesses: ‘We are the community’

PUBLISHED: 07:47 16 November 2018

Harold Hil independent shops feature.

Harold Hil independent shops feature.

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December 1 is Small Business Saturday. As part of a series looking at what our independent shopping parades have to offer, reporter Hayley Anderson finds out why you should hit the high street and shop local this Christmas.

Harold Hil independent shops feature. Kimberley Akaloo, Sabi Hasgoler, Cydney Pigeon and Samantha Ellis of the Scissor Lounge.Harold Hil independent shops feature. Kimberley Akaloo, Sabi Hasgoler, Cydney Pigeon and Samantha Ellis of the Scissor Lounge.

Despite big brands and major supermarket chains continuing to monopolise the everyday shopping experience, small pockets of friendly independent businesses are still thriving up and down the country.

These stalwarts help supply local people with top quality products and the highest levels of customer service.

And this couldn’t be more true for places such as Harold Hill where these small shops are at the heart of the community.

From shopkeepers who save fruit and veg for Harold Hill’s beloved deer, to a bakery which makes the “best bread pudding on the planet”, according to Councillor Jan Sargent, there really is something special about buying from a businesses with a story to tell.

Harold Hil independent shops feature.Harold Hil independent shops feature.

Councillor Jan Sargent said: “When you visit the independent shops here in Harold Hill, you are not visiting solely to purchase something, you are visiting to meet and chat with people who, over the years, you have built up strong relationships with”, Cllr Sargent said.

“You’ll have to go a long way to find another community spirit that can come close to the fun spirit of Harold Hill.”

Dan Wallace, 53, has been the proprietor of florists Flowergirl in Hilldene Avenue, Harold Hill, for the past six years but has been managing the family-run business for the past three decades.

His mum set up the business, which was originally in Petersfield Avenue, 40 years ago and when she retired, he decided to take over.

Harold Hil independent shops feature. Dan Wallace, proprietor of Flower Girl.Harold Hil independent shops feature. Dan Wallace, proprietor of Flower Girl.

They are planning to hold a mini celebration to mark the milestone anniversary next year.

He said: “She [mum] was the creative side of things and I was good at the logistics so we worked well as a team.

“It’s nice having it as a family business as my wife now does the accounts and the girls we’ve got have been working here for 20 plus years too so we all work very well together.”

Dan believes what makes Flowergirl stand out from other shops is the first class customer service that they always try to provide.

Harold Hil independent shops feature. Dan Wallace, proprietor of Flower Girl.Harold Hil independent shops feature. Dan Wallace, proprietor of Flower Girl.

“There have been changes with staff over the years but the high level of service that we provide has always remained the same and I think that’s why we always have people coming back.

“Online shopping has taken over the high street.

“Instead of people getting off their backsides to get stuff that they need, they order it online but if we keep going like that, interacting with a computer screen rather than actual people, we’ll be just like robots.”

Just a few doors down, owner of hairdressers Scissor Lounge, 31-year-old Sabi Hasguler, continues to work hard alongside her team to perfect residents’ hair-dos.

Before buying the shop which used to be called Hair Connections in August 2016, Sabi managed salons around Essex but longed to open up her own business.

After purchasing the shop, Scissor Lounge was closed for five weeks while they carried out a major refurbishment to make it look as good as new.

“It’s been my dream to open up my own salon so was really excited when I finally got the chance to”, she said.

“The old salon that used to be here was quite outdated, so it didn’t get a lot of business and that’s why we decided to give it a complete makeover.

“Our customers come back to us because they trust that we can give them an amazing look.

“When you spend money at an independent shop, you’re investing in the local area and that’s what I would like to see more of in the future.

“Smaller businesses need support from its community because we are the community.”

The Small Business Saturday campaign, which began in America 10 years ago, has become an international movement, with independent business owners and shoppers alike showing their ongoing support.

So why not show yours by visiting this friendly community.

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