Businesses in Green Square, Kingston, are bouncing back as shoppers and specialty stores return the precinct to its former glory.
Long-term retailers such as Stephanie’s Boutique Lingerie, Joe’s Boots, and Honeysuckle and Lace have ridden the ebbs and flows, but a new wave of businesses are helping the area boom again when just 12 months ago some were facing going bust.
“In April last year, we were a week-to-week proposition,” says Claire Smith, co-owner of The Essential Ingredient. “By June, people were rediscovering their inner cook and things picked up. Now, with all the building works done and plenty of free parking, it feels like just reward for local businesses here.”
The Green Square revamp is still a work in progress, but what business owners have noticed most is the area has a sense of belonging once again.
The new Supabarn supermarket provides two levels of underground parking, while popular chain Gelato Messina is also set to open in Kingston.
“People are being drawn back to non-technology-based items such as jigsaw puzzles and books, which is also bringing that sense of belonging with it,” says The Book Cow owner Peter Arnaudo, who, as the new kid on the block, opened in December 2020.
“We’ve had a great couple of months,” he says.
Scott Leggo, from Scott Leggo Gallery, has been open for three years and is also seeing the shift in optimism with businesses and shoppers.
“So long as there’s no more COVID-19 craziness, we’re quite optimistic about the long-term future of this area,” he says. “A lot of people thought the old Kingston had died with the opening of the foreshore, but now the centre of gravity is moving back to Green Square.
“This is now the heart of Kingston beyond simply going to a cafe or restaurant.”
There’s a steady trade of kitchen gadgets and goodies going out the door at The Essential Ingredient, where people kept the store alive on the back of the sourdough-making saga of 2020. Items such as bread tins and proving baskets were more valuable during COVID-19 lockdown than a 10-pack of toilet paper.
“We were deciding on a Friday each week whether we’d stay open another week,” says Claire. “We gradually expanded our hours and put our full staff back on, and now it’s business as usual again.
“November and December were great for us and we worked really hard to make sure we had the kind of items people were asking for.”
Scott says it’s a matter of Kingston businesses having the right ingredients.
“Kingston now has a supermarket with lots of parking, plus services such as a post office, a doctor, a bank and all these specialty shops which give people something to browse while they’re here,” he says.
“The clear trend is that people are wanting to support local businesses, and they like the idea of being able to get what they want rather than ordering a book through Amazon, for instance.”
While Kingston business owners are always wary of the next challenge, there’s one less hurdle to overcome with the dust settling on building works in Eyre Street.
“There were a couple of years with all those issues with parking in Kingston and not wanting to sit in Green Square while there were drills going all day,” says Claire. “It made it hard for businesses here.
“But we knew what the planners were aiming for. Kingston has been here since the 1920s and the good stores survive if you work hard at it.”