PUBLISHED: 12:08 23 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013
If variety is the spice of life, the capital of the cotswolds is the place to be. Words by Katie Jarvis. Photography by Kate Brown.
SHOPPERS throughout the Cotswolds already know that Cirencester is a gem - a unique mix of individual stores. The trick is to keep it that way.
And that's where the traders come in. Like most people, they're aware there could be difficult times ahead, but they're determined to keep the town as buoyant as possible. Peter Stringfellow, owner of the toyshop Crocodile, is a committee member of Cirencester Chamber of Commerce. "We're hoping that, within the next 12 months, we will have our own town manager. Among other things, that would mean the town could be properly marketed and promoted. One of Cirencester's strengths lies in having so many smaller traders - but that also means that many of us are busy managing our own businesses with no time to look at the bigger picture. Having a town centre manager would strengthen our ability to work together."
Crocodile, which Peter and his wife, Celia, opened 23 years ago, is a prime example of the sort of shop that draws people in from far and wide - you'd have to look hard to find another independent toy shop of this quality. "Cirencester's strength is that it's a sustainable market town - you can buy pretty much anything here," he says. "It's the centre of the Cotswolds - more or less geographically as well as being the local government centre - which means it's the focus for people from all over the region. We get shoppers visiting from miles away.
"What's more, it's an employment capital with important blue-chip companies. We've got St James's Place, Mitsubishi, Corin medical, for example, as well as the colleges. It's a very rounded town."
Peter's is a long-established business; but there are other, newer, outlets which have opened here because of the town's reputation for discerning and loyal customers. The Rectory Kitchen and Cellar opened at 2 Templar Mews in Black Jack Street late last year. Catriona Whittaker has been its manager since April. She's now returning to Cape Town and, she says, she'll miss the warmth and friendliness of the place. "I've loved it here. I came straight from London, where the relationship with customers is very much service-based. Here in Cirencester, I've got such lovely 'regulars' who really appreciated everything we do. They end up not having to ask for products - we know them so well, we know what they're looking for! It's been a great town to work in."
The Cirencester Chamber of Commerce website, which includes a local business directory, is at www.ccoc.org.uk