New future for empty Harrogate shop

The pop-up Watermark Gallery at Royal Parade in Harrogate.
The pop-up Watermark Gallery at Royal Parade in Harrogate.

An empty shop at a prestigious address in Harrogate has been given a new lease of life with the opening of a pop-up art gallery by the online art dealers, Watermark Gallery.

Elaine Philips Antiques, which had occupied the premises on Royal Parade for 40 years, relocated last autumn and the shop has remained vacant ever since.

Watermark Gallery owners, Liz and Richard Hawkes, managed to persuade the landlord to allow them to take over the property for three months.

Now, in what may be a pointer to how to deal in future with empty units in the town centre, they are using it as a test to see if Harrogate can sustain their independent gallery on a permanent basis.

Unlike York and Leeds, pop-up shops in Harrogate are very rare.

Landlords and property agents are generally not keen to facilitate pop-ups as they can sometimes be seen as too much hassle for little financial reward.

But Liz and Richard believe it can help an agent attract new tenants by showing the potential.

Liz said: “ A ‘pop-up’ culture provides a great way to support independent businesses and create a buzz in struggling high streets.

"We are really grateful to our landlord, Simon Moran of SJM Properties, for giving us this opportunity. He recognized just how difficult it is for new retailers to get started and was keen to see his shop put to good use.”

Within two weeks of taking the tenancy, Watermark Gallery had given the old shop a make over and opened its doors to the public.

Liz said: “I think we’ve brought a new excitement to the area. We’ve been given a hugely warm welcome from neighbouring restaurants, shops and the public, all of whom have said how pleased they are to see another independent, arts-based business.”

In the past Watermark Gallery owners, Liz and Richard Hawkes have held ‘pop-up’ shows in the home of a local artist and a local business premises.

Owner Liz Hawkes said: “We’ve been driving past this empty shop for several months now thinking what a great space it would be for a gallery.

"We’d love to have permanent premises in the town and this is an excellent location for testing the market.”

But the dandelion clock in the window is ticking. Each seed head represents one of the 12 weeks the gallery will be open.

Watermark Gallery is based at 2 Royal Parade, Harrogate HG1 2SZ until October 12.

Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 10 to 5pm, Sunday 10 to 4pm. www.watermarkgallery.co.uk.

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