Harrogate restaurant owner: How to beat the 'chains'

Paul Rawlinson of Norse restaurant and Baltzersens cafe is leading a new movement to raise the profile of independents in Harrogate.
Paul Rawlinson of Norse restaurant and Baltzersens cafe is leading a new movement to raise the profile of independents in Harrogate.

Enough is enough! The owner of an independent coffee shop in Harrogate is launching a wide-ranging debate on the influx of chain restaurants and the future of local businesses – and is set to launch the town’s first ‘indies’ guide.

Paul Rawlinson, who opened Baltzersen’s cafe in Oxford Street in October 2012, posted an in-depth blog following the closure of three independent businesses in the space of one week, including one which had been open since the 1970s.
He assessed the reasons for closures, the current state of the hospitality scene in Harrogate – and what business owners can do to boost their position in the market.
Paul said: “Harrogate has seen a significant influx of chain restaurants over the last year, along with a number of independent businesses closing their doors.”
“It’s easy to jump to conclusions and try to place blame, but I wanted to give more thought to the situation and the many influences on the fortunes of local businesses.
“I also wanted to show that there are ways for independent businesses to survive even in a difficult market.”
Since launching its Love Our Indies campaign more than two years ago, the Harrogate Advertiser has helped promote the cause of independent bars, cafes, restaurants and shops in town.
It has also heard growing grumblings over the effect of chains on local businesses.
But Paul Rawlinson, who is also a partner in award-winning Nordic-influenced restaurant Norse, which recently moved from its shared home at Baltzersen’s to premises in Swan Road, is keen to turn such talk into real action.
He says he is now speaking to as many interested businesses as possible to put together a plan.
The first thing on his list is to create a guidebook called Indie Harrogate – signposting people to the best indies in town - with an accompanying website.
Paul said: “It can be hard for independent businesses to maintain their profile and compete without the power of a chain behind them.
“By working together, we have greater strength and power to raise our profile collectively. Harrogate is a great place to shop and eat, and we want to tell the stories behind the many brilliant local businesses in town .”
The former military man is encouraged by the response he’s already received.
Paul said: “The response since I posted the blog has been incredible, from both business owners and local residents who want to play their part in supporting the independents they love.”

To read Paul's blog, visit www.paulrawlinson.co.uk
Anyone interested in being part of the Indie Harrogate project can contact Paul at info@indieharrogate.co.uk
What do you think of the battle to promote indies?
Post your views at the Harrogate Advertiser Facebook page or email us at news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk