An experienced retailer is looking forward to opening two new shops at Harborough District Council’s offices which have been vacant for the past 18 months.
Retail boss Raj Aggarwal will soon be opening a plush Insomnia coffee bar and a Spar convenience store at The Symington Building in Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough.
And Mr Aggarwal, who lives in Great Glen in the district, says he is brimming with excitement at branching out into the “special town” of Market Harborough.
Building work has been taking place this week for the new outlets and Mr Aggarwal hopes to have the tills ringing by mid-September if all goes according to plan.
This pair of units – out of three overall at the council HQ – has been vacant for 18 months.
It’s been a long process to get to this point after the project got bogged down in rent issues last November but Mr Aggarwal now wants to put all that behind him and focus solely on a prosperous future.
Speaking passionately about the £400,000 project on Tuesday, Mr Aggarwal told the Mail: “The aura of Market Harborough is something special; we know it’s a special town.
“And the townspeople always look great!
“We’re hoping the people will welcome us with open arms. The shops are really going to look great.
“There’s been a lot of interest and a lot of anticipation.”
The shops will be creating 26 jobs and at least two apprentices, all of which are being taken up by Harborough district residents.
Among the staff will be a set of 17-year-old triplets.
Some of the new workers have been training in Ireland for three weeks ahead of Insomnia’s opening.
The council’s retail units are a key plank in the authority’s ‘transformation programme’ to sweat its assets.
The council HQ – the Victorian-era former R & WH Symington corset factory – was refurbished in 2013 at a cost of £5.75million and re-opened to the public in January 2014.
The Gallone’s ice-cream parlour opened at the first retail unit in July 2014 but the other two remained frustrating unoccupied.
A Simply Fresh convenience store was originally mooted for one of the units but Mr Aggarwal has now decided to partner with Spar because he says this new firm gives him more scope to drive sales and potentially acquire other Spar businesses elsewhere.
Mr Aggarwal already runs another convenience store in Wigston, which has been in his family for 30 years.
He is also lining up an additional Spar franchise in Glenfield, Leicester.
The 45-year-old won the Federation of Wholesale Distributors’ gold medal for Retailer of the Year in 2008 and he sits on the national boards of several independent retailers’ groups, including the Association of Convenience Stores.
“If you were to slice me in half you’d find ‘retail’ running right through me,” Mr Aggarwal told the Mail.
Spar is a Dutch multinational chain with 12,322 stores in 34 countries including 2,400 shops in the UK, one of which is in Coventry Road, Market Harborough.
The Insomnia coffee company has grown from a single location in a Galway bookstore in 1997 to an estate of more than 100 coffee outlets across the UK and Ireland.
The company is part owned by Irish entrepreneur and businessman Bobby Kerr, a ‘dragon’ on the Irish version of the Dragons’ Den TV show.
A Harborough District Council spokesman said: “These shop units are situated in the heart of the town and will provide an excellent business opportunity.
“We are being kept informed of progress by the tenant and look forward to the units opening soon.”