'High Street Hero' finalist Cathy tells how indie shops boost community
- Credit: Pippa Travis-Williams
Cathy Frost is a "passionate advocate for the high street", and says independent shops are a key part of the community.
She is glad to have her Ipswich gift and homeware shop, Loveone, open again after the latest lockdown, and her customers have been telling her how much it means to get out and meet people again.
"When we reopened, people came in the shop and said to me: 'I have missed it so much'.
"They didn't just miss shopping, but popping out for a coffee, having a chat and feeling they belong somewhere."
Loveone was chosen as one of five finalists for the High Street Hero award at the annual Small Awards, held this month, organised by Small Business Britain.
Although the shop wasn't the overall winner, Cathy was proud to have made it to the final of the awards, sponsored by TSB.
She said: "I truly believe in the importance of the small business community to all of our towns and cities, especially following the effects of the pandemic on our urban centres."
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Since she opened Loveone 13 years ago, Cathy has worked together with fellow businesses to raise the profile of the "Saints" area of the town - St Peter's Street and St Nicholas Street - with its historic buildings and quirky independent shops.
She is a strong supporter of Shop Local and a founder and organiser of the regular street markets, normally held twice a year, with a mix of vintage, crafts, food and more.
Cathy paid tribute to the way the whole street works together, including Zoe Woods from Crafty Baba, who works alongside her as director of the Saints Community Interest Company, which runs the street markets.
"We have a really great community here and we all help each other," Cathy said. The business owners have all stayed in touch with one another during lockdown and also kept in touch with customers and local residents.
One example of how businesses have helped each other is that Applaud Cafe, next door to Loveone, has been able to use the shop's garden for extra space when needed while only outdoor hospitality was allowed.
Cathy said the idea of the regular markets and fairs was initially inspired by similar events in other areas such as East London, Manchester and Liverpool.
"The markets actually saved my business in many ways, and the businesses around me, because it drove footfall. People were looking for artisan products and it has done so much to promote the area."
The next event is planned for June 20. There will be a smaller number of stalls than normal due to Covid guidelines, but it is hoped it will be back to full capacity for the always popular festive market later in the year.
"We have got a tremendous spirit in Ipswich and I am always impressed by how many people want to support the market and get involved," she said.
Although she is now so much part of the Ipswich community, Cathy started her career as an environmental health officer in East London, moving to Ipswich when she married husband Andy.
In the space of three years, she gave birth to her two children and also sadly lost her mum to breast cancer.
With so much going on in her life, Cathy felt she needed to do something which would fit in better with family, and she took inspiration from her mum.
"My mum had her own business in London making soft furnishings, and I had helped her over the years and had a real interest in interior design, even though I wasn't very good at art at school," she said.
Cathy started making curtains, initially as a hobby, and an increasing number of friends asked her to make curtains for them. "Suddenly I found myself with my own little business," she said.
She went on to do a two-year interior design course at Otley College (now Suffolk Rural), and started to grow her business, initially online - but realised she would prefer to have a shop and be more involved with the community.
After initially running a pop-up shop within Marianna Boutique, she decided to take the plunge and run her own shop. Loveone has changed and grown the years, and one of its latest ventures is to stock plants from Emma's Florist. "It's great to collaborate with other local businesses," she said.
Cathy is also involved with the wider community in Ipswich. She is one of the trustees of the New Wolsey Theatre and has a passion for live theatre, and spent three-and-a-half years as co-ordinator of Ipswich Vision.